Archive for the ‘Member Services’ Category

Charter School Legal Questions? We’ve Got Answers.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Last week, charter school leaders from around the state gathered in the new auditorium at Harmony Public Schools in Houston, TX to take part in the first ever Statewide Charter School Legal Summit. Outside of the Annual Charter Schools Conference this was the first time charter schools had ever had two-day training exclusively dedicated to the unique legal needs of Charter Schools.

With classes having just started a few weeks ago for most Texas Charter Schools I was impressed to see so many of my charter friends in Houston for this event—nearly 80. We were all there on a quest for answers because charter schools face unique legal challenges especially when trying to successfully navigate the intersection of non-profit and governmental compliance. Together with expert presenters, charter leaders were able to gain clarification on key legal issues and proactively plan for the school year.

What I loved about the training were the questions asked by participants. Charter leaders were firing away question after question keeping presenters on their toes. What impresses me most is when you have a charter school finance officer, probably a CPA by trade, asking about very specific special education issues. This just continues to show how we all have to wear so many hats as charter school leaders and do everything in our power to continually better ourselves.

At the conclusion of the training, attendees toured Harmony Science Academy’s state of the art labs and were impressed by science demonstrations by AP physics students, including my favorite—the runaway hovercraft! Honestly, I only remember getting to dissect a worm or two in school, let alone figure out a way to send my buddy spinning across the classroom and not get in trouble.

Finally, thank you again to our sponsor Ziegler, attendees, presenters and staff that helped make this training a success and I look forward to doing it again next fall. Together, we all made this possible.

Matt Abbott, TCSA Director of Training Services

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It’s a Wrap: Spring Charter School Finance Bootcamp is a Resounding Success!

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Last week, charter finance leaders from around the state gathered at the Lincoln Training Center at Advantage Academy in Duncanville, TX to take part in the first ever Spring Charter School Finance Boot Camp. Outside of the TCSA Annual Charter Schools Conference this event was the largest ever gathering of charter leaders in the DFW area.

It was great to get to rub shoulders with so many of my charter friends in one place. Although it sounds a little weird, nothing excites me more that overhearing people chat about MOE, T&E, PEIMS, Title 1, AARA, GL, and Budget Development, to name a few. When I hear these conversations I know that charters are constantly looking to better themselves and be one step ahead. Charter Business Officers are a unique breed who I have grown to appreciate immensely because of the unique way they adapt to deal with an ever growing mountain of financial and operational compliance issues. Together with expert presenters charter leaders were able to gain clarification on key compliance issues and proactively plan for the tight financial times to come over the next biennium as Texas works towards tackling its current deficit.

In true charter style it was not all just business at the Charter School Spring Finance Boot Camp. There is nothing better at the end of a long day than to break bread with friends. Thanks to vendor members, CDA and Vinson&Elkins for sponsoring the Charter School Networking Happy Hour that was attended by more than 40 people. I am still savoring the flavor from the Cajun goodies, specifically the spicy etouffee, yum. Good friends and good times for all.

Thank you again to all of the attendees, sponsors, presenters and staff that helped make this training a success and I look forward to doing it again next spring. Together, we all made this possible.

Matt Abbott, TCSA Director of Training Services

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Charters in the State’s High Court

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Texas Supreme Court Justices

Last week was an exciting week in the Texas open-enrollment charter school world; well, at least exciting for a legal geek like me. Last Tuesday was the first time a case involving an open-enrollment charter school was before our state’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Texas.

The case, LTTS Charter School vs. C2 Construction, involved a construction company that sued Universal Academy claiming that the school owed it more money. This case, which started out as a run-of-the-mill contract claim, has truly morphed into a legal case that may have broad implications for all Texas open-enrollment charter schools. In an effort to spare you all much of the legalese, I will summarize by saying that the Supreme Court of Texas heard oral arguments on whether an open-enrollment charter school has the right to file an “interlocutory appeal” from a lower court’s ruling. Such an appeal “hits pause” on the case going on in the lower court while the appellate court decides the issue that a party has brought before it on interlocutory appeal. The public policy rationale behind such an appeal is that public funds should not be wasted on protracted litigation – in order words, we must be mindful of the “public’s purse”.

TCSA submitted two separate amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs in the case in support of Universal Academy’s position. Encouragingly, the Texas Solicitor General, who was asked by the Supreme Court of Texas to file an amicus curiae brief, also agreed that open-enrollment charter schools have the right to file an interlocutory appeal. Sitting in on the hearing, what fascinated me most was listening to the Court grapple with “what is a charter school”? “Is it a public school?” “Are they subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act?” “Are their records open to the public?” “Do their students take the same TAKS test?” “What or who authorizes these schools?” “How are these schools funded?” I realized sitting in that courtroom that I take for granted, living in this charter school world in which we live and breathe, that many people who don’t live in our world don’t understand the concept of a charter school – they don’t know that it’s a free, public school; they don’t know that open-enrollment charter schools are equally accountable, both academically and financially, as their traditional school brethren; and they don’t know charter schools are doing a remarkable job at sending off kids to college and recovering or preventing high school dropouts with less money than traditional ISDs and no facilities funding to boot!

All this is to say that it was a great opportunity to provide the Supreme Court of Texas with a little Open-Enrollment Charter School 101. TCSA seized this opportunity through the briefs we submitted and provided the Court with this much needed information. We here at TCSA wait with much anticipation the Court ruling as we believe it will give us some insight as to how the Court views open-enrollment charter schools. In the meantime, at each opportunity, we’ll continue to educate the public on charter schools and showcase our successes.

Veronica Garcia
TCSA Director of Legal and Policy Services

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