Over the next decade, Spring ISD is expected to lose more than 1,600 students, according to a recent demographics study conducted by Templeton Demographics. Demographers attribute the loss largely in part to the growing presence of charter schools.  “[Spring ISD’s number of students leaving the district] jumped up about two years ago, and that’s because of charter schools, frankly,” said Rocky Gardiner, director of School District Consulting with Templeton Demographics, during the Spring ISD board of trustees workshop Feb. 7. “So that hasn’t changed but it has leveled off, so we think that’s a sign that things are getting a little bit better.” view article arw

More than 4,000 parents whose children attended the Houston-based Varnett charter school network between 2007 and 2014 could receive restitution payments totaling more than $600,000 nearly a year after the district’s founders were convicted of siphoning millions from the schools, federal officials announced Tuesday.  Parents could be eligible for $110.02 per child for every year they attended one of the district’s three campuses. For example, if a family sent three children to the school for three years, it could be eligible for $990.06. view article arw

Three interconnected charter school networks will remain open next year despite scrutiny of payments and loans totaling at least $17 million to a company owned by the charters’ highest-ranking employee.  HISD board members voted 5-4 to authorize renewal of the district’s contracts with the three charter networks, drawing applause from roughly 50 students, parents and teachers from the school in attendance. If trustees voted against the authorization, the three networks — Energized For Excellence, Energized For STEM and Inspired For Excellence academies — likely would have shuttered operations and displaced about 4,000 students ahead of the 2019-2020 school year. view article arw

Carol Burris is the executive director of the Network for Public Education. She is a lifelong educator, first a teacher of Spanish, then an award-winning principal of a high school in New York. She writes here to explain briefly why charter schools are unnecessary and are not public schools.  “When I was a high school principal, I also ran an alternative school called The Greenhouse. It was small–its average enrollment was 17 students. The students were older–juniors or seniors–who were credit-deficient or who, for personal reasons, needed an alternative setting. view article arw

Alabama:  Woodland Prep is a charter school horror story — and it hasn’t even been built yet.  Located in rural Washington County, Woodland Prep, which will open as a K-7 school this fall and add a grade level each year, is everything state leaders assured us could never happen under Alabama’s charter school laws.   Its land is owned by a shady Utah holding company. Its building is owned by a for-profit Arizona company. It will be managed by a for-profit Texas company that doesn’t employ a single Alabamian. It will pay the head of that management company around $300,000 per year — up front. view article arw

The Houston Gateway Academy's board of directors voted Monday to indefinitely suspend Superintendent Richard Garza and IT Specialist Ahmad Bokaiyan after the two were indicted on federal embezzlement charges. In a statement, attorneys for the school wrote that the board and others first learned on Friday that Garza and Bokaiyan were accused of siphoning more than $250,000 from the charter school network in 2014. view article arw

When the yellow-scarf-wearing coalition of “school choice” supporters held their biennial rally at the Texas Capitol this January, the crowd was smaller than in years past. One reason: Some of the state’s largest charter districts had pulled out of the fanfare that frosty winter day, deciding to distance themselves from the advocates pushing for private school vouchers or similar programs. "We backed out," Mark DiBella, CEO of the Houston-based Yes Prep charter, said plainly. "I basically wanted to put as much distance between us and vouchers as possible given the nature of the feeling in Austin." view article arw

When the yellow scarf-wearing coalition of “school choice” supporters held their biennial rally at the Texas Capitol this January, the crowd was smaller than in years past. One reason: Some of the state’s largest charter districts had pulled out of the fanfare that frosty winter day, deciding to distance themselves from the advocates pushing for private school vouchers or similar programs. view article arw

Charter school fiascos in the news provide backdrop for legislative hearings tomorrow - Tomorrow the House Public Education Committee will hear a slew of billsaddressing charter schools, with many of the proposals aimed at ending the special advantages charter schools have, as well as ones aimed at making sure charters are open and transparent in their governance and finances. view article arw

About seven years after Inga Cotton created the San Antonio Charter Moms blog, she noticed that the most-visited web page on the site was a listing of all the city’s charter schools.  “It’s just an alphabetical list of the schools of choice in San Antonio,” Cotton said. “The next step was wondering, ‘How do we make that page more useful for parents?'”  Cotton decided the best way to help parents find a charter school that fit their student would be to develop a phone app, San Antonio Charter Schools, with useful information on each school. view article arw

The warning signs appeared soon after Denise Kawamoto accepted a job at Today’s Fresh Start Charter School in South Los Angeles. Though she was fresh out of college, she was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for the school to churn so quickly through teachers or to mount surveillance cameras in each classroom. Old computers were lying around, but the campus had no internet access. Pay was low and supplies scarce — she wasn’t given books for her students. She struggled to reconcile the school’s conditions with what little she knew about its wealthy founders, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills. view article arw

The Onion reports on an exciting and innovative concept in the world of charter schools: a school without students! “One year into its founding as the purported “bold next step in education reform,” administrators on Monday sang the praises of Forest Gates Academy, a progressive new charter school that practices an innovative philosophy of not admitting any students. “We’ve done something here at Forest Gates that is truly special, combining modern, cutting-edge pedagogical methods with a refreshingly non-pupil-centric approach,” said academy president Diane Blanchard, who claimed that the experimental school boasts state-of-the-art facilities, a diverse and challenging syllabus, absolutely zero students, a world-class library, and the highest faculty-student ratio in the nation. “ view article arw

A blistering new report from the Network for Public Education (NPE) documents how the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Education, wastes hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on grants awarded to charter schools that never open or quickly close. The Department of Education is also funding charter schools that blatantly discriminate in their discipline, curricular, and enrollment practices.The Washington Post broke the news here this morning view article arw

The San Antonio ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new initiative Monday night that the superintendent said will help keep some schools alive. The board approved partnerships with four non-profit organizations that will transform 18 SAISD schools into in-district charter schools. The non-profit organizations will create a governing board that will oversee the principal and staff, curriculum, and other school procedures. The district said the goals of the charters are designed to provide expertise and the non-profit leaders will be in place to preserve the charter model. view article arw

Only 2.6 percent of K-12 students living within Cy-Fair ISD’s boundaries attend charter schools, but Population and Survey Analysts demographers project that number could increase as more charter school systems expand to the area. While less than 10 charter schools exist within the district’s boundaries, local students attend at least 43 charter schools, including Harmony Public Schools, International Leadership of Texas and KIPP Houston Public Schools. YES Prep Northwest opened in August, and at least two more charter schools plan to open in Cy-Fair by 2020. view article arw

President Trump’s first federal budget proposal seeks a $168 million increase for charter schools, which is a 50 percent funding increase from the current level set by the previous Obama administration. For Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, charters are one tool in the school choice tool box that they say will be front and center of their education reform agenda. view article arw

Craig Harris, a senior reporter for azcentral.com, examines BASIS Phoenix South Primary, a new charter school, and tries to find out how taxpayer dollars are being spent at the successful chain of charter schools. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com - It's midmorning and children in Room 101 at Basis Phoenix South Primary are sprawled on the floor and seated at desks with their faces buried in readers. view article arw

A charter school that was hoping to begin operating in Whitewright was recently denied its application from the Texas Education Agency. In a letter issued by Frontier Education Foundation, Chairman Jason Norton said the organization was “disappointed” by the TEA’s decision.  “While we are disappointed, we are encouraged by the fact that we will receive clear feedback on those remaining areas where we need to shore up our application,” Norton said. view article arw

A local group is in Austin fighting for public schools on Monday. One of the issues is the growing number of charter schools, which they argue receive more funding per student than public schools. Dr. Nancy Vera, the president of The Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers, says funding for charter schools has doubled in the last five years, and “charter schools are anything but positive for our children in Texas.” A charter school is like a public school and receives some state funding, but runs independently. view article arw

Nearly 10,000 students in the Austin area are on waiting lists to enroll in a local charter school, according to updated data released Wednesday by the Texas Charter Schools Association. Association officials said 25,035 students already have enrolled in a local charter school, as charters continue their rapid expansion in Central Texas, having grown in enrollment by an average of 25 percent annually in the Austin area during the past decade. Charter schools are independently run but publicly funded. view article arw

Idaho’s K-12 public schools took on some 5,000 new students in the past year, according to state enrollment data released mid-February, marking the steepest year-over-year enrollment jump since 2012. The slight surge in enrollment numbers over the past year fits squarely in the trend of continued growth in Idaho’s education system, which has added more than 50,000 students over the last 15 years. view article arw

Eight months ago, Mendez Middle School in Southeast Austin was taken over by an in-district charter – the first of its kind in the Austin Independent School District – led by the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (T-STEM) coalition. Along with Communities in Schools (CIS) and the UTeach Institute, T-STEM was tasked with turning around a school that has struggled to pass state accountability standards for five consecutive years. If the school doesn't improve enough in two years to receive a rating of "D" or better under Texas' current system for ranking school performance, it could face closure. Those are the stakes for the T-STEM effort; for some in the AISD community, the partnership highlights the difference state-funded grants can make for a district bracing for a financial crisis. For others, the model now in effect at Mendez – and other campuses in the future – poses an existential threat to public education. view article arw

egarding the Longview ISD charter school proposal: As parents, we wonder what will happen if we want our children in the noncharters, but they are full. Since we are zoned into certain schools now, will our children be forced to attend there anyway? How can parents of middle school students get out of a charter since two of the three are to become charters? That leaves Foster only. Those of us zoned into Johnston-McQueen and Judson will have no choice but charters since both of them are to become charters. view article arw

Student Alternatives Program, Inc. District officials along with campus staff and administration officially announced their new name and unveiled their new logo and brand. The official announcement was made at a press conference held at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. The new name – Triumph Public High Schools was announced amongst numerous education officials and community leaders. The Triumph logo and brand is intended to convey an established and institutional personality. The subject matter was generated to inspire a sense of accomplishment, success, and stability. The purpose of the design was to convey an academic symbol, which personified the personality and mission of Student Alternatives Program, Inc. through eye-catching color and design. The style was developed to appear approachable and empowering with tones of blue and orange to project a youthful energy. view article arw

Four charter operators have asked the Texas Education Agency to let them open new schools in the San Antonio area, with ambitions of enrolling thousands of students within the next five years. Paperwork submitted to the agency during the most recent application period is listed as “under review.” If approved, the charter networks plan to open in the 2020-21 school year. view article arw

Midland ISD continues to push to create more options for its students. The district already offers several alternatives to the traditional neighborhood public school with six choice schools (Bowie Fine Arts Academy, Pease Communications and Technology Academy, Washington STEM Academy, Carver Center, Houston Collegiate Prep Academy and San Jacinto Junior High for sixth-graders in the AVID program), three transformative academies (petroleum academy; business, management and technology academy; and health sciences academy), an alternative high school (Coleman) and an early college high school. view article arw

Dallas school officials insist that the youngest learners would benefit from a deal that converts some nonprofit preschool classrooms into charter campuses that work within the district. DISD already works with various preschool providers for some prekindergarten classes, and making them in-district charter schools would allow them to get more state funding, administrators said at a Thursday board briefing. But calling anything in DISD a "charter" has tempers flaring. Critics say that's just a first step to privatizing public education. Trustees spent nearly three hours heatedly debating just how DISD would use a new state law aimed at spurring charter partnerships. view article arw

Attracted by the prospect of more autonomy and better state funding under a new law that occasionally has led to controversy, principals of as many as 10 campuses in the San Antonio Independent School District are considering partnerships with outside organizations. view article arw

Call it what you want, but a charter school is a charter school, and critics of private partnerships with traditional districts are not happy with plans to enter into such partnerships.  They fear any move by a district to hand over school operations to an outside entity amounts to the "privatization" of children's education and opens the door to risky experimentation.  But school officials in Dallas and Fort Worth insist they want to use a new Texas law that encourages in-district charters to funnel more state money to their schools by partnering with universities or nonprofits. view article arw

Former leaders of the Harmony and YES Prep public schools networks each want to start new charter ventures in the Houston area, potentially enrolling thousands of students. Organizations led by Soner Tarim, the co-founder of Harmony Public Schools, and Jason Bernal, the one-time CEO of YES Prep Public Schools, are among the 14 Houston-area nonprofits seeking to obtain approval to create charter networks in the region, according to applications submitted to the Texas Education Agency. view article arw

Several Texas lawmakers have decided it’s a problem that public charter schools don’t operate exactly like traditional schools. But isn’t that the point? The charter school bargain — the very foundation of charter schools — is that they have the autonomy and freedom to do things differently in exchange for results. Texas charter schools are keeping their end of this bargain and are a valuable addition to the public education landscape. view article arw

Several Texas lawmakers have decided it’s a problem that public charter schools don’t operate exactly like traditional schools. But isn’t that the point? The charter school bargain — the very foundation of charter schools — is that they have the autonomy and freedom to do things differently in exchange for results. Texas charter schools are keeping their end of this bargain and are a valuable addition to the public education landscape.  view article arw

A Dallas ISD trustee is calling on city council to put a moratorium on new charter schools in the southern part of the city. She believes the area is already saturated with charters, which is hurting neighborhood schools. The Dallas City Council Committee directed staff to study how charter schools are impacting the area and the schools around them. According to one council member, the city has the right not to issue permits if a charter would hurt a neighborhood school. view article arw

Legislation introduced by an influential Republican state senator would require charter schools to disclose more about their finances. But the bill contains a large loophole that would allow the state’s biggest chains like Basis Charter Schools and Great Hearts Academies to avoid revealing how they spend their money. State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, said Senate Bill 1394 would accomplish the biggest reform to charter schools since they were created by the Arizona Legislature in 1994. “ It’s an enormous amount of progress, and this is not my last stop,” she said. view article arw

On Jan. 23 Texas American Federation of Teachers called on state lawmakers to put a moratorium on any new charter schools in Texas until reforms are made in the charter system. Ray McMurrey from Texas American Federation of Teachers (TAFT) and Starlee Coleman from Texas Charter School Association (TCSA) debated the merits of the proposal Sunday on the State of Texas politics program. McMurrey said TAFT is not asking to ban charter schools, rather take a step back to look at the impact of charter schools. "We believe that charter schools are hurting public schools and that is evident through several factors," McMurrey said. view article arw