The treatment of students with disabilities in the Texas public education system has all the ingredients for an emotional and disturbing HBO series. It involves politics, money, deception, denial, Federal investigations, lawsuits, questionable State contracts and the wrongful termination of a “whistleblower” at the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”). Unfortunately, it also involves the neglect of underprivileged students and families that rely upon and are guaranteed assistance from public schools. view article arw

HARLINGEN — Face to face, virtual, or a combination of both?  All of the above when Jubilee Harlingen opens for the new school year, says Flor Robinson, associate superintendent for Jubilee Academies — Rio Grande Valley.The nonprofit charter school organization has sent surveys to parents of all students. In those surveys, parents can indicate which instructional model they prefer for their children this school year. They can ask for their children to continue with online learning or come physically to class. There is also the hybrid model, which consists of both face to face and virtual instruction. view article arw

While sheltering with her family during the pandemic, dealing with the challenges of remote learning, Michelle Tomlinson couldn’t help but notice in her social media channels the growing frequency of charter school advertising. She was annoyed that the schools were targeting public school parents where she lived in the suburban northeast corner of Wake County, North Carolina, the sixth-wealthiest zip code in North Carolina, with some of the state’s top-performing public schools. view article arw

The nonprofit, nonpartisan “In the Public Interest” joined forces with Parents United for Public Schools in Oakland to investigate whether charter schools in that city were double-dipping, taking public school money and also taking federal funds intended for small businesses. Their conclusion: Oakland charters have collected close to $19 million that was intended for small businesses. view article arw

More than two-thirds of New Orleans' charter school organizations have applied for federal loans through the congressional act to help keep businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, garnering criticism from some groups for tapping into a program that hasn't been available to traditional public schools. view article arw

WASHINGTON — Charter schools, including some with healthy cash balances and billionaire backers like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, have quietly accepted millions of dollars in emergency coronavirus relief from a fund created to help struggling small businesses stay afloat.  Since their inception, charter schools have straddled the line between public schools and private entities. The coronavirus has forced them to choose.   And dozens of them — potentially more because the Treasury Department has not disclosed a list — have decided for the purpose of coronavirus relief that they are businesses, applying for aid even as they continue to enjoy funding from school budgets, tax-free status and, in some cases, healthy cash balances and the support of billionaire backers.    (17) view article arw

When the leaders of IDEA Public Schools gathered last December to vote on an eight-year lease for a private jet, the charter network’s then-board chair, David Guerra, thought of the nearly $15-million deal in business terms.  As president and CEO of International Bank of Commerce, Guerra and his team had used six corporate jets to grow the multibillion-dollar company beyond its Laredo home base. The same advantage would hold true for IDEA, he reasoned, as the state’s largest charter school network, which started in the Rio Grande Valley, rapidly expanded across Texas, Louisiana and Florida.  “We cannot fulfill our commitment to such a large geographic area without having this type of transportation,” the retired banking chief told fellow board members, who unanimously approved the lease. But they reversed the decision two weeks later after charter school opponents and even some of the network’s supporters denounced it as an irresponsible extravagance. view article arw

Good news for athletes in Boerne. The Boerne ISD Athletic Department began their Summer Strength and Conditioning Workouts Monday at Boerne ISD Stadium. Over 500 student-athletes from all sports at both middle and high schools were there for the optional workouts. The students will be working out inside all this week due to the heat. view article arw

The Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) continues to approve the rapid expansion of IDEA Public Schools (“IDEA”), the largest and fastest growing charter school system in Texas. A charter is a taxpayer funded, privately managed school system that is approved by the State to simultaneously operate schools in the boundaries of school districts (“charter”). To fund charters, the State “recaptures” taxpayer funding from locally governed school districts and redistributes it to the privately managed charters it has approved. In Texas, charters receive over $3.2 billion of taxpayer funding per year. view article arw

EDINBURG, Texas – State Rep. Terry Canales wants more transparency at Texas charter schools and says he will introduce legislation next session to demand it.  The Edinburg Democrat does not like the way IDEA Public Schools has been run over the past few years. Referencing Texas’ largest charter school network, Canales titled a recent post on Facebook, “Charter Schools Gone Wild.”  IDEA has come in for criticism for leasing and operating a private jet for several million dollars. However, this was not at taxpayer expense, IDEA said. The charter also spent $400,000 on tickets and box seats at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Again, this was not at taxpayer expense, IDEA said. view article arw

A charter school system that has yet to open it first Houston-area campus already has plans for another in the works.  Idea Public Schools, which styles its name as "IDEA," for "Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement," plans to open 20 schools across the Houston area within the next six years.  The newest campus will be called Idea Lake Houston, but it will be near the interchange of Highway 90 and South Lake Houston Parkway, a little over 10 miles northeast of downtown Houston. The campus will open in August 2021 with kindergarten through second grade as well as sixth grade. Afterward, a new grade will be added yearly until the campus provides pre-K through 12th grade in 2027. view article arw

Blooming Grove Independent School District recently welcomed Rick Hartley as its new superintendent.  Where and how did you begin your career in education and what lead you to become a superintendent?  To be honest, my first inclination in college was toward criminal justice. I had ambition for federal law enforcement. Sadly, my eyes did not meet the necessary requirements and I began looking for a new career path. I was working nights at a college and would often stay after the classes ended to tutor math students. I enjoyed it and was successful in getting the adults to learn where they struggled. From that success, I decided to change my major to education. view article arw

HISD trustees voted Thursday to begin the months-long process of seeking a state designation that could result in students returning to classes in mid-August starting with the 2021-22 school year. view article arw

D.C. charter schools received federal aid intended to keep nonprofits and small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, drawing criticism from public school advocates and others who say the money should be reserved for businesses hit harder by the crisis’s economic toll.  It is unclear exactly how many applied for the money. Officials across the District’s expansive charter sector — 63 operators that educate almost half of the city’s 100,000 public school students — have largely remained quiet about which schools have received help from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.  The D.C. Public Charter School Board, the city board that regulates the schools, said it doesn’t know, and the D.C. Council’s Education Committee chair said the same. view article arw

At their April 21st board meeting, held virtually through Zoom, the Benavides ISD school board members voted 5-0 (with two board members absent) to approve two new innovative partnerships for their district, one for their elementary school and one for their high school. School Innovation Collaborative will be operating the elementary campus and Public School Partners will be operating the high school campus. The partners were chosen through a rigorous application process, including a targeted search and a community review panel.  view article arw

Dr. Theresa Trevino, a public school parent in Austin, wrote to Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath to complain about the insertion of a BASIS charter school into a community where the school is neither wanted nor needed. BASIS is owned by a couple who pay themselves $10 million a year. Their charter schools require students to pass multiple AP exams, which effectively winnows out low-performing students, who no longer bother to apply. Most of their charters are in Arizona, where they are celebrated for their high scores. Their high scores are achieved by excluding students who might get low scores. view article arw

he Texas Council for International Studies board has approved a partnership contract with Longview ISD, paving the way for the district to apply to make all campuses charter schools with the Texas Education Agency.  The TCIS board met in a virtual meeting Tuesday to comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. The meeting agenda was posted on the Longview ISD and TCIS websites, though it is unclear when. According to state law, public meetings must be posted in time to give at least 72 hours’ notice to the public. view article arw

Introduction: To ensure school districts and State approved, privately managed charters are accountable for the quality of their financial management practices, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) administers the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (“FIRST”). According to TEA, “the system is designed to encourage schools to provide the maximum allocation of resources for direct instructional purposes”. The State annually assigns a FIRST rating to each school district and charter based upon various financial metrics, benchmarks and operating procedures. TEA also publishes the FIRST ratings for public review and each taxpayer funded school is required to present its FIRST rating at a public hearing. The FIRST rating categories are as follows: view article arw

One of two organizations set to take over remaining Longview ISD campuses as charter schools held its first board meeting Thursday, but it was unclear how many parents and other stakeholders knew about it. view article arw

Longview Independent School District board members agreed to enter a charter partnership with two non-profit organizations, during a virtual meeting Monday, April 13th.  Trustees authorized Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox to negotiate and sign performance contracts with Texas Council for International Studies (TCIS), and Longview Educates and Prospers (LEAP).  Dr. Wilcox praised the board members for their diligence and dialogue throughout this process.   “Our trustees have done such an excellent job of communicating to [district staff] their thoughts, concerns, and questions at every step of the way,” he said. “We appreciate their service and leadership to the entire Longview community.” view article arw

On behalf of the education organizations listed at the end of this letter, we want to first thank you and your staff for your tireless work supporting public education in Texas during this unprecedented time of crisis. We are all in this together. This is an extraordinary time with many challenges at both the state and local level. We wish to provide you with thoughtful comments that may inform your decision-making process about new charter expansion amendments. In this extremely difficult time for both school districts and charter schools, we are especially concerned about sustaining state funding for House Bill 3 given the dire state budget projections provided by the Texas Comptroller. We are also concerned about the unpredictable and unbudgeted costs that school districts and charter schools will likely incur in their efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis. view article arw

A Longview ISD virtual town hall on charter schools initially will be accessible only to those with a district email address. Parents will be able to use their students’ emails to participate in the hour-long online meeting set to start at 6 p.m. Thursday. District spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said every Longview ISD student has been assigned a district email. During the meeting, district officials will answer questions that have been sent via the ask@lisd.org email. Everyone else can watch a recording that will be posted immediately after on social media and to the district’s website, Ross said. Questions can still be sent to district officials after the live meeting at ask@lisd.org .The virtual town hall can be accessed via Google Hangouts at tinyurl.com/lisdvirtualtownhall . view article arw

A Longview ISD virtual town hall on charter schools initially will be accessible only to those with a district email address. Parents will be able to use their students’ emails to participate in the hour-long online meeting set to start at 6 p.m. Thursday. District spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said every Longview ISD student has been assigned a district email. view article arw