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A federal judge Friday ordered Richard Garza, the former superintendent of Houston Gateway Academy, to serve five years in prison for siphoning off more than a quarter-million dollars from the charter school network in 2014 with the aid of a co-conspirator. Garza, 61, pleaded guilty to theft from a federally funded program in September 2019, but then backpedaled from the deal. The ex-superintendent sought to withdraw his plea because of information he thought would benefit his case and that his lawyers obtained after he’d agreed to the plea deal, his lawyer said. This request was rejected by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. last month. view article arw

Carol Corbett Burris was a teacher and principal on Long Island, in New York state for many years. After retiring, she became executive director of the Network for Public Education.  She writes: view article arw

If our recent deep freeze taught Texans anything, it’s that effective transparency and oversight is critical when it comes to essential common goods like electricity. High-quality public education for all Texas school children is also an essential common good. Transparency and oversight of our public school districts is carried out by your local school board. Unfortunately, transparency and oversight of charter schools is frequently relegated to investigative journalism like what uncovered IDEA Public School’s use of taxpayer dollars to fund private jets and box seats at the Alamodome for administrative staff among others. Given this complicated history regarding inadequate public charter school transparency, it’s especially disappointing that members of the Texas Legislature have submitted bills (HB-3279 and SB-28) that would eliminate an integral barrier of entry for new charter school applications, the Texas State Board of Education. view article arw

During the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees meeting Monday, Trustee Tracy Fisher outlined several bills at the Texas Legislature being closely monitored by the district. Among those are the ones that deal with charter schools. Fisher said there have been 35 bills filed that have to do with charter schools. She expressed concern on some of those that would provide more charter school funding.  “Texas is a gold rush for charter schools, and many of these bills would open up Texas public funding to more of them,” Fisher said, “and give more flexibility.”  Fisher said a lot of money has gone to legislative campaigns to support charter schools. view article arw

Joseph Frilot said when he graduated as valedictorian of his Houston public high school in 2010, he could count on his hand how many of his 200 fellow classmates were planning to go to college. Now a teacher at IDEA Montopolis—one of five charter schools operated by IDEA Public Schools in Austin—he said he wished his community had a similar option when he was growing up.  “As an African American who attended a public school district, I saw firsthand how students were not being pushed into college,” he said. “Black and brown students who grew up in communities similar to mine are not being able to receive the education they deserve, and in my eye, we give them that at IDEA.” view article arw

HB 450 Introduced

April 0608:30 AM

Relating to the establishment of a new open-enrollment charter school or campus and to the expansion of an open-enrollment charter school. view article arw

The Texas Senate Education Committee bowed to the wishes of the powerful charter lobby and granted sole power to the State Commissioner (appointed by the Governor) to approve charter schools. His decisions can be vetoed only by a supermajority of the State Board of Education. The State Commissioner of Education is Mike Morath. He is not an educator. He is a software executive who served on the Dallas school board and advocated for charter schools. Local elected authorities—including mayors and school boards—are prohibited from blocking a charter school that wants to open in its jurisdiction. Charters can locate wherever they choose without regard to the views of local communities that want to protect their own public schools from rapacious charters.    (1) view article arw

As a little girl living out of a duffel bag, schools were one of the few stable environments I could rely on. Georgina C. Perez When I got older, the fact that there were other displaced kids just like me out there drove me to work my way from the maquiladoras and night classes to my first job in a classroom. After a decade of working with El Paso’s highest-risk students, I was proud to be chosen by our community to fight for our schools on the Texas State Board of Education. view article arw

Another arena has emerged in the ongoing fight between charter school operators and their detractors: local planning and zoning committees.  Critics of charter schools have increasingly sought to slow or stop their spread through local governmental bodies, arguing in zoning, city planning and permitting cases against the expansion of charter campuses in their neighborhoods.  Uplift Education, the largest charter operator in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with 21,500 students, narrowly won approval in 2016 for its Wisdom campus in Red Bird, getting past a divided council by one vote. Another large operator, International Leadership of Texas, couldn’t get zoning approval in 2018 for a K-8 campus in southern Dallas, and resorted to opening in Lancaster instead.    (30) view article arw

The charter industry is turning its lobbyists loose in Texas. Despite the large number of charters in the state (more than 800), the lobbyists want more. More. More. $$$. The Legislature is now debating changes in state law to remove obstacles to charter entrepreneurs and corporations that want more locations. Texas doesn’t need more charters: Charters in Texas are regularly outperformed by public schools. The Houston Chronicle reports: view article arw

It has become cliche for politicians and policy makers to oppose “for profit” charter schools. It’s also a safe stance, because most people agree they’re a bad idea; for-profit charter schools are not legal in almost all states. But charter school profiteers have found many loopholes, so that while they may not be able to set up for-profit charters, they can absolutely run charter schools for a profit. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but the difference is that one is illegal in almost all states, and the other, as outlined in a new report, can be found from coast to coast. The new report, “Chartered for Profit,” from the Network for Public Education examines the size and reach of “the hidden world of charter schools operated for financial gain.” (Full disclosure: I am a member of NPE.) view article arw

Companion bills filed in the Texas House and Senate, seeking to do away with hurdles facing charter schools that try to open or expand, have bipartisan support but will move the sharp ongoing debate over their rapid growth into the legislative arena. Supporters of Senate Bill 28, called the Charter School Equity Act, say it would level the playing field for new and existing charter schools across the state by preventing local governments from treating them differently from traditional public schools and by relaxing state controls. Advocates for traditional public school districts say the playing field is tilted in favor of charter schools. The way to level it would require much more state oversight and local input, not less, they say. view article arw

Do families in highly-rated school districts, such as Austin, Houston, and Dallas, need public charter schools?  You already know the answer from your personal experience. But this is a question some state lawmakers have been asking -- so we decided to look at the data.  read more arw