Amid protests from teachers groups and public school advocates, Texas education officials are rewriting the state's rules for approving new charter schools in order to speed up the process and allow some charter operators to expand more quickly and with less state oversight.  The Texas Education Agency solicited comments at a hearing Monday in Austin on proposed changes that would create a new scoring system to fast-track expansion of the highest-performing charters while prohibiting the lowest-rated ones from opening new schools.  A coalition of advocacy groups and teachers associations argued at the hearing that the state should instead put up more roadblocks to slow expansion of charter schools, which are managed by nonprofits but funded by the state. view article arw

ALVIN — Students in Brazoria County can attend a traditional public school, a private school or be homeschooled, but one choice students in southern Brazoria County do not currently have is attending a charter school in the area. Community officials are now looking to change that. view article arw

AUSTIN, Texas — Charter schools are taking a toll on Austin ISD's wallet, according to a new budget analysis the school board discussed Monday night.  The district's finance office reported charter school enrollment has more than doubled in Texas over the past seven years – and that's cost AISD about $100 million in revenue. view article arw

Introduction: Promoted as an “education reform” to improve the learning of economically disadvantaged students, the Texas Legislature and the Commissioner of Education have been approving the expansion of privately-operated charters (“charters”) across the State of Texas. Charters are taxpayer funded, privately managed organizations that the State approves to independently operate schools in locally governed school districts. As such, charters are free to aggressively recruit students to garner the per student taxpayer funding of $10,525 from local school districts. The privatization of Texas public schools is big business. Charters will receive $3.28 billion of taxpayer funding this year. But the State does not regulate the recruiting tactics of charters and the State does not consider the best interests of students, families and taxpayers as it approves charters to rapidly expand in local communities. For example, the State is approving charters with “C” academic ratings to expand in school districts that have State provided academic ratings of “A”. view article arw

Nearly seven months since initially confirming plans to open in Jacksonville, IDEA Public Schools confirmed it would open four schools in the city in 2022. The nonprofit charter school system based out of Texas announced the openings in a news release Wednesday.  “We are excited that IDEA Public Schools is expanding to the Jacksonville area,” Executive Director of IDEA Jacksonville Jose De Leon said. “Our mission is to prepare students for success in college and citizenship.”  De Leon is a Texas native and former educator. He has worked with IDEA since 2010 and was named the incoming Jacksonville director in December. view article arw

Gary Rubinstein has a deep aversion to hypocrisy, hypes, and propaganda.  He read a widely publicized report saying “research shows” that graduates of KIPP have higher college completion rates than their peers.  But then he discovered that the research shows no significant difference between KIPP students and their peers in college completion rates. His post debunks Richard Whitmire’s erroneous claim that KIPP students finish college at a rate three to five times greater than students who went to public schools. view article arw

Longview ISD received four applications for partners to run possible charter schools by the deadline Monday. And though the district declined to give details about the applications before a Jan. 21 board meeting, city spokesman Shawn Hara confirmed one was submitted by city officials.  The district’s Chief Innovation Officer Craig Coleman previously said staff will make a formal recommendation to the school board on Jan. 21, and the board will vote on whether to approve entering negotiations with the potential partners on Jan. 29. view article arw

Marlin ISD is on the verge of closing, according to City Manager Cedric Davis. A charter school is a possible option and a consultant would be needed. view article arw view article arw

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The high-achieving network of BASIS Charter Schools – which has seven schools ranked in the top 35 schools in the United States, according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings -- will open new K-12 schools next year in both Austin and northeast San Antonio. Both schools – BASIS Austin and BASIS San Antonio Northeast -- will begin by enrolling primary school students: K-4 students in Austin and K-5 students in San Antonio. Both schools will expand to serve K-12 students over the next few years. view article arw

A Basis Schools Horror Story

January 0708:30 AM

Their most recent ranking of high schools shows two Arizona charter schools in the top ten in the nation: BASIS Tucson (#2) and BASIS Scottsdale (#5). As always, the back story is more interesting than the numbers.  The BASIS charter schools – about a dozen of them, mostly in Arizona but a couple outside, like in San Antonio – are the brainchild of Michael and Olga Block. view article arw

I recently wrote about a report by the advocacy group, the Network for Public Education, about waste in the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). It was the second such report published in 2019 by the group, which was co-founded by historian and activist Diane Ravitch. Both of them, not surprisingly, received pushback from charter school supporters. view article arw

A recent headline in the Arizona Republic newspaper said it all: “Across the U.S., charter schools are growing — and teachers unions are trying to stop them.”  Charter schools are growing, both nationally and in m y home state of North Carolina, because they offer parents an alternative to the traditional government-run public schools — schools in which many children, for various reasons, feel ignored, unsafe, or unchallenged. view article arw

For the fourth time in only five years, the leader of a charter school has been arrested for siphoning money away from the school. The Houston Chronicle reports: The founder of a now-closed Houston charter school network failed to properly disclose more than $1 million in payments to his brother’s companies and used taxpayer funds to cover costs associated with a timeshare in Hawaii, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. view article arw

Federal agents arrested the founding superintendent of a shuttered Third Ward charter school Wednesday morning on charges that accuse him of embezzling school money for his personal use.  Richard S. Rose, who served as superintendent, CEO and chief financial officer of Zoe Learning Academy, is expected to make his initial appearance in a federal courtoom at 2 p.m., where he will answer to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, theft of government funds, money laundering and false bankruptcy declarations. view article arw

Owning a charter chain is very lucrative, especially when it is one of Betsy DeVos’s favorites. Just this year, she gave the Texas-based IDEA chain $116 million from the federal Charter Schools Program to expand in Texas and Louisiana.* Feeling flush, the IDEA board of directors approved a plan to lease a private jet and pilot at a cost of $160,000 a month for eight years, nearly $2 million a year, for a total of $15.3 million. The pushback from Texas AFT, the attention from Texas newspapers, and the heavy ridicule on Twitter led to a quick reversal of the decision. IDEA’s well-compensates executives will have to fly commercial, to their great disappointment! view article arw

Charter schools are proliferating where they aren’t needed while state funding continues to support even those charters that violate state law, according to a released Monday by a research and advocacy group.  The new research by an Oakland group called looks at where charter schools are increasing in number and where schools are needed based on enrollment. The two trend lines do not correspond, researchers found — especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where the number of school-age children has declined even as the number of charters has rapidly grown.  Charters are privately operated, taxpayer-funded public schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses. view article arw

Texas’ largest charter school network abruptly grounded its plan to spend millions of dollars leasing and operating a private jet Monday, hours after the Houston Chronicle and a state teachers union raised questions about the arrangement.  IDEA Public Schools officials reversed course Monday evening, saying the organization will not sign an eight-year lease on an eight-passenger aircraft, an agreement unanimously approved earlier this month by the charter’s governing board. District leaders said they planned to use the jet to fuel the organization’s rapid expansion across the southern United States, with private donors footing a bill expected to approach $15 million over the life of the lease.  “Opponents of education reform have falsely attacked a prudent management decision, creating a distraction from our core work,” IDEA founder and CEO Tom Torkelson said in a statement Monday evening. “Though at no time public funds would have been used for the aircraft, IDEA has decided not to move forward with the lease.” view article arw

Longview ISD is seeking campus operating partners to manage possible charter campuses across the district. An open “call for quality schools” the district issued says it is looking for four specific types of school models: Career and Technology, International Baccalaureate, Project-Based Learning and Educator Preparation Lab Schools. view article arw

Bloom Academy, a school by a New York City educator, wants to focus on underprivileged children and children who don't speak English as their first language. view article arw

A former student alleged that KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg sexually assaulted her under the guise of a medical exam, and a former KIPP employee said he offered her money in exchange for sex, according to a court filing by the KIPP charter school network.  The filing offers new details on the sexual harassment and abuse allegations that led to Feinberg’s firing last year, a move that shocked many in the charter school movement. The motion, filed in November, asks for the dismissal of a defamation suit Feinberg filed against KIPP, the country’s largest nonprofit charter network. view article arw

Valerie Strauss on New NPE Report

December 1108:40 AM

Valerie Strauss reviews “Still Asleep at the Wheel” here. She begins: “More than 35 percent of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program (CSP) between 2006 and 2014 either never opened or were shut down, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, according to a new report from an advocacy group that reviewed records of nearly 5,000 schools. view article arw

The Bob Hope School will receive $15 million in funding for expansions, repairs and a new high school, after the Jefferson County Commissioners Court on Tuesday gave County Judge Jeff Branick the authority to approve a tax-exempt financing agreement. The Hughen Center, parent company of the Port Arthur-based charter district, will borrow the money under the agreement, which is a “conduit issuance of debt,” Branick said. Under the agreement, a third party, the Newark Cultural Education Facilities Finance Corp., will borrow the money from the First Financial Bank and then give the funds to The Hughen Center. view article arw

The superintendent of the New Orleans’ all-charter school district recommended the closure of two charter schools that received a grade of F, but parents and students turned out at the Orleans Parish School Board meeting to demand that the board override his decision and keep their schools open. Students, parents and leaders of two Orleans Parish charter schools turned out by the dozens on Thursday night to protest Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr.’s decision to pull the school’s charters, prompting the president of the Orleans Parish School Board to say he’s considering a board vote on overriding the decision. view article arw

Starlee Coleman, CEO of TCSA and John Armbrust, CEO and Founder of Austin Achieve Public Schools honored the Lt. Governor for his hard work and dedication to public school students in Texas by presenting him with the 2019 Charter Champion award. Lieutenant Governor Patrick is one of our greatest champions at the Texas Capitol.  view article arw

After families and staff from two F-rated charter schools with unknown fates packed an Orleans Parish School Board meeting Thursday to make emotional appeals to stay open, Orleans Parish School Board President John Brown Sr. promised to carefully review NOLA Public Schools’ Superintendent Henderson Lewis’ recommendation not to renew the schools’ charters. Mary D. Coghill Charter School and Joseph A. Craig Charter School each received an F rating from the state this fall in a critical high-stakes year for the charters — when their contracts are up for renewal. The NOLA Public Schools district requires charter schools to meet certain academic and operational standards to remain open. Lewis has recommended the two charters not be renewed.  view article arw

When Jenn Smith enrolled her daughter at BASIS Texas, a network of high-performing charter schools in San Antonio, she thought her curious fourth-grader would love it. But her daughter, Ella, was reading at a second-grade level and struggling on spelling tests. Smith asked BASIS to find out whether her daughter had a reading disability. view article arw

After years of trying to get her son extra help to deal with his short attention span, Britany Miller had high hopes at YES Prep, a popular network of charter schools in Houston that says it’s “redefining what’s possible in public education.”  She was drawn to the promise of charter schools, a small but rapidly growing segment of the public school system that market themselves as being more innovative and less bureaucratic than traditional public schools.  But when she met with school officials in 2017 to discuss her son’s attention deficit disorder, Miller said she was told a falsehood — that charter schools don’t have to offer special accommodations to students with learning disabilities. view article arw

An open call for partners to manage Longview ISD campuses as charter schools should be coming soon.  Craig Coleman, chief innovation officer for the district, said Longview ISD soon will be issuing an open call for partners to manage possible Senate Bill 1882 schools, because the partners will need to be in place when the application to the Texas Education Agency is filed by its due date of March 31.   A mandatory letter of intent for districts wishing to pursue partnerships to make campuses charter school was due to TEA on Friday. School board president Ginia Northcutt said Tuesday the district was planning to submit a letter before the deadline. view article arw

When Mr. Metcalf’s seventh-graders at Chandler Preparatory Academy drift off task, he calls out, “Students, what are we here to do?” They answer: “We are here to learn to love what is beautiful.”  A drilled call-and-response is a common technique at charter schools, but this one is unique to Great Hearts Academies, America’s seventh-largest charter school network, with 30 classical schools in Arizona and Texas serving 18,000 students. view article arw

While we are on the subject of the District of Columbia, here’s an interesting tidbit. Despite the drumbeat about “waiting lists,” charter enrollment declined, and enrollment in public schools increased.  The numbers are not large but they seem to reflect a trend. Charter enrollment also declined in Michigan, DeVos’s domain.  Maybe parents are getting tired of schools that open and close like day lilies. There is something to be said for stability and experience. view article arw

A charter school organization is challenging an Oklahoma City Public Schools plan to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars more in charter fees. Families for Excellence in Education Inc. is seeking to block the school district’s plan to raise administrative fees on charter schools from 3% to 5% of their annual state allocation. view article arw

It looks kind of like a design lab for the latest tech company, but the robotics classroom is where young minds are encouraged to design, build, and program machinery.  "I'm thinking surgical engineering, creating robots to help with surgeries." said freshman Kaelen House. view article arw

The change would provide, innovative teaching techniques, International Baccalaureate training, advancements in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) education as well as career technology education programs.   In an attempt to get feedback, the district held multiple town hall meetings where some teachers, parents and students expressed concern about the charter-based programs. Other concerns include how the programs would be implemented. view article arw

DC Prep CEO Laura Maestas and her colleagues had a lot of explaining to do. More than a dozen Ward 8 residents showed up to the DC Public Charter School Board’s Monday meeting irate. They carried signs that read “#NoDCPreponFrankford!” DC Prep is trying to open a middle school for 4th to 8th graders in Ward 8, likely at 1619 Frankford St. SE, and has enraged nearby residents in the process. The conflict pitted educators against homeowners, charter school heads against its board, and Ward 8 residents against Ward 8 residents. It’s the latest example of how the District’s lack of comprehensive planning for where to build new schools can create disarray.  view article arw