There are several reasons to join or renew your membership with the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA), and one of the primary reasons includes TCSA’s support in addressing the challenges that you and your charter team are wrestling with right now.

TCSA assists charters and their boards with a wide array of subject matters, all of which fall into one of the systems in your TCSA Quality Framework. As Director of Quality Services, I assist campus and district leaders and governing board members in resolving or addressing areas of struggle by improving performance and/or processes.

I am ready to help your team with any of the following tasks:
• Develop logic models and action plans (Leadership/Planning)
• Refine governing practices and optimize board composition and norms (Leadership/Governance)
• Refine improvement efforts and data review processes (Data Driven)
• Conduct an organization-wide analysis to determine expansion readiness (Leadership/Planning)
• Develop, launch and analyze surveys to inform practices or address issues (Staff/Stakeholder)
• Conduct an organization-wide analysis to identify gaps and strengths and craft improvement plan (Leadership)
• Refine mission/vision statements, develop values or norms, or improve organizational culture (Mission Vision Values)

Public charter schools with strong systems and good leadership remain sustainable over time. Join or renew your membership with TCSA today and let us help your team advance to the next level.

HOW TO JOIN OR RENEW:

Step 1: Login to the Quality Member Portal 

Applications will be completed in the Quality Member Portal. Once logged in, click the 'Membership' tab at the top. Please click here if you have forgotten your password.

Step 2: Complete the 2018 Online Membership Application

Upon submission of the online application, an invoice will be automatically generated and sent directly to the accounting contact email listed on the application.

Step 3: Remit your Membership Dues to:

Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA)   

700 Lavaca Street, Suite 930   

Austin, TX 78701

If you have questions about TCSA membership, please contact Nadia Luna. Thank you for your continued support of charter schools in the great state of Texas.

The Texas Charter Schools Association’s newest partner is Revive IT, a hardware, software and managed solutions provider specializing in affordable, streamlined IT solutions for schools using new or professionally refurbished equipment. Revive IT offers everything from consultation to equipment installation, and because their sister firm, ER2, has relationships with Fortune 1,000 companies for asset disposal, they can source high quality equipment easily for charter schools.

Revive IT services include:

  • Free consultation
  • 1 and 3 year warranties
  • Equipment installation
  • Hot Swap program
  • IT support
  • Cloud-based storage
  • IT asset disposition services
  • Custom imaging

Headquartered in Mesa, AZ,  Revive IT realized early on how their commitment to community would include public charter schools. Their business model to refurbish computer equipment for resale is a perfect fit for public charter schools balancing tight budgets with the need to educate and expose students to technology in the classroom. With the ability to provide both new and refurbished products, Revive IT is able to meet the needs of new and established charters. To date, Revive IT has partnered with nearly 50 schools and districts throughout the country. Many of these schools serve vulnerable communities, so the impact of these relationships goes far beyond technology.  

In particular, a partnership with New World Educational Center in Phoenix brought technology into their classrooms, and eventually Revive IT equipped them with a full computer lab using affordable enterprise-grade technology.

“Our school is considered a low socio-economic school; we have 80-85 percent that are at free or reduced lunch,” said Jesus Armenta, Principal at New World. “Many students don’t have access to a computer at home. I’ve always believed that kids - all kids, regardless of who they are - can learn. We see that big ripple effect - it’s affecting our future. Revive IT is making an impact more than they know.”

Understanding fiscal concerns, Revive IT offers creative solutions tailored to each school’s needs. “Our vision as a company is in part to be responsible to our community,” said CEO Chris Ko. “In these school partnerships, we are not only equipping them with technology, we are also equipping each student with critical tools to compete, succeed and thrive in their communities, and the workplace.”

If you are a new charter on a tight budget, or are a growing charter looking to scale, Revive IT can manage your school’s IT infrastructure affordably. Please contact Erin Tholen to discuss how Revive IT is the right solution for your school.

One of the benefits of membership with the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) is representation at the Texas Capitol. On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, TCSA’s Bruce Marchand appeared before the House Public Education Committee to advocate on behalf of public charter schools and students. Below is the testimony he provided to the Committee to support students and public charter schools impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Interim Charge: Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

Good morning Chairman Huberty and members of the Committee. My name is Bruce Marchand and I am the Director of Charter School Growth and Development of the Texas Charter Schools Association, or TCSA. TCSA represents 172 public charter holders and approximately 675 campuses that educate nearly 300,000 public charter school students.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate today on the discussion related to recommendations on measures needed to prevent unintended punitive consequences in the state accountability system as a result of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. While TCSA is a strong proponent of school accountability, we also recognize that the impact of Harvey on our public schools and students in those regions is unprecedented.

And, while we do not support a complete waiver from the state’s accountability system for this school year, we do encourage a state effort to recognize and make an accommodation in the academic accountability system for those schools and students impacted by Harvey.

Therefore, TCSA’s proposal is to exempt students, who are identified through TEA’s PEIMS crisis codes as students impacted by Harvey and other recent hurricanes, from the school’s district and campus accountability subset for the 2017-18 school year. Again, this is not a recommendation for exemption from testing, but simply the one-year exclusion of these impacted students from a campus and district or charter holder accountability subset.

TEA established PEIMS crisis codes to track students impacted by Harvey (5A-C) and any other hurricanes (06) – such as Irma and Maria to identify these affected students:

5A – This specific code indicates a student was enrolled or was eligible to enroll in an LEA impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and the student enrolled in a different LEA during the 2017-2018 school year.

5B – This specific code indicates a student was enrolled or was eligible to enroll in an LEA impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and the student enrolled in another campus in the same LEA during the 2017-2018 school year.

5C – This specific code indicates a student is identified as homeless because of Hurricane Harvey but has remained enrolled in their home campus during the 2017-2018 school year.

06- Indicates that a student enrolled in a Texas public school during the 2017-2018 school year as a result of being displaced from their residence by Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, or any other hurricane labeled as such by the National Hurricane Center, other than Hurricane Harvey.

As for precedent, in 2006 students who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita were tested in the state assessment system but their results were removed from the accountability subset, as noted in Appendix I of the 2006 accountability manual. As justification for this approach, I would refer you to a March 24, 2010 study conducted by Student Assessment Division at TEA that examined the performance of students who were identified in the 2005-2006 school year as being displaced by Hurricane Katrina or “Katrina students”. This study examined the performance of these displaced students for three years and found that in the first year after the storm that Katrina students tested in Texas (2006), the percentages of these students passing was far below the passing percentage of all Texas students in reading and mathematics.

Hurricane Harvey has caused similar conditions for Texas students. The living conditions as well as the educational programs of displaced students due to Harvey have been severely disrupted. Many schools have spent, and continue to spend, considerable resources addressing not only the academic needs of these students but also the socio-emotional needs brought about by students’ suffering and displacement.

In light of these circumstances, and the challenges faced by public schools in ensuring these students are mastering grade-level TEKS, and the evidence as noted in the Katrina study that many of these students may well perform below state standards in their tested areas as compared to their non-affected peers, it is logical that students who are identified by these specific PEIMS codes should be excluded in the 2017-2018 accountability subset for public schools. To be clear, the students would still test. It is important for schools to have the data necessary to assess the progress of students. Our recommendation is simply that testing results of these specific students, similar to what TEA has done in the past, be excluded in this school year’s rating.

With that I conclude my testimony, thank you again for the opportunity, and welcome any questions.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has just posted the RFQ announcing the need for qualified external reviewers to score Generation 23 charter school applications. The application packet can be found here. The deadline to apply is Monday, December 11th.

What is an independent external reviewer of charter applications, and what do they do?

As most of you know, the Texas charter authorization process consists of four major components: external review, a panel interview by TEA staff for applicants who were successful in external review, recommendations for approval of charter applicants by the TEA commissioner, and ratification of those recommendations by the State Board of Education (SBOE), where the proposed contract to charter is upheld or vetoed by the SBOE.

Those individuals selected as independent external reviewers will attend a day of training at TEA, tentatively scheduled for January 10, 2018, where they will be trained in the scoring process. Upon completion of the training, reviewers will be assigned applications to score – usually between 8 and 10, depending on the number of applicants as each application is scored by five reviewers. Typically reviewers will have about 30 days to complete the scoring of their assigned applications. Thanks in part to the efforts of the Texas Charter Schools Association, applicants who receive a cumulative score of 80 to 84 percent may request an additional sixth review of their application to allow for the opportunity to raise their score to the 85 percent cut score minimum to proceed in the authorization process.

Why is it important for you as a charter leader to consider this opportunity?

As charter leaders, we have very little say in the charter authorization task with one notable exception: the external review process. And as charter leaders, if we don’t take the opportunity to add high levels of competence and collective years of educational expertise to the authorization effort, we are at risk of undermining the foundation of the charter growth movement – the creation of more high-quality seats to provide a world-class public education to the students of Texas.

Successful reviewers need to have a solid background in curriculum and instruction, operations, finance, personnel, governance, and charter law in general. That sounds like a description of many of our great Texas charter school leaders. The hours are long and the pay isn’t great, but the cause is worthy.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the process. Thanks ahead of time for considering making a difference in the Texas charter application review process!

Wayside Schools became a member of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) five years ago when I joined the Wayside staff as CEO. I have been a passionate supporter of TCSA for many years and share the belief that every parent should have the opportunity to choose the free, public school that best fits the needs of their scholar(s).

TCSA is a great partner in advocacy efforts and one primary example includes the passage of HB 21, which provides $60 million in facilities funding beginning in 2018-19. Like many public charter schools, our small charter network is impacted by the disparity in funding. However, we worked with TCSA during the last legislative session to pass HB 21! Public charter school students will receive about $200 per pupil, which is a first step in closing the funding gap. Unlike any single charter network, TCSA is able to bring together multiple voices and multiple communities, to advocate on behalf of increased funding and other important policies affecting charter school operations.

As a member organization, Wayside Schools receives special help scheduling legislative visits and engaging legislators to attend individual school events. TCSA staff work alongside our parents helping them to practice their talking points and prepare for advocacy activities. TCSA is there every step of the way so that parents never feel they are acting alone. Their staff go above and beyond to provide the support we need to have a voice in the world of education public policy.

As a network leader, they have helped me connect with other charter leaders to share best practices. TCSA offers many trainings and workshops that give insight into charter and school policy changes that will impact how our school operates. They also provide a comprehensive analysis tool as part of membership. More than anything else, I recommend a TCSA membership because they make you feel like you are never alone and provide support while navigating the world of running a charter school.

The Rhodes School opened its doors in 2007 to educate pre-K through eighth grade students in Houston, Texas. Throughout our decade of serving the northeast part of Houston, we have never experienced anything near the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to our community’s doorstep.

I encourage you to donate to the TCSA Harvey Relief Fund to help public charter school communities like mine that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Out of our four school facilities, one was severely damaged and a second is a total loss. The damage is so extensive it is difficult to list it all but primarily includes:

• The loss of nine classrooms, two cafeterias, 90 percent of administrative space for one location, 100 percent loss of all offices and space for central office staff in a second location, and also the loss of four school buses and one delivery van;
• 318 brand new Chrome Books that were purchased for student use as digital textbooks were totaled;
• Brand new library books, teacher supplies, special education testing materials, speech language testing materials were damaged; and
• Four copiers, three commercial refrigerators, furniture for all nine classrooms and several administrative offices were lost.

Painfully, a large portion of our musical instruments, costumes, set designs, and theater program props were also damaged beyond repair. I want to point out that Rhodes is a fine arts public charter school and it is the primary reason that our parents choose to come to our school. Therefore, the loss of the fine arts equipment is particularly devastating for our program.

Many of you may be familiar with the stories surrounding Hurricane Harvey and know that several road closures meant people could not get to their buildings to begin the recovery process. This meant we could not begin cleanup efforts at Rhodes until nearly a week after the storm, leading to significant mold issues that we are now working to remediate.

What I have described to you is merely the physical impact of Harvey. The gravity facing our community is much more severe. Our largest school campus is located in one of the hardest hit communities in Houston with more than 70 percent of families displaced in the weeks immediately following the storm and about 40 percent who remain displaced today. We have a double-digit increase in the number of students now legally classified as homeless as a result of the storm.

At Rhodes we are working to meet the very real basic needs of several of our families and staff. I wish I could say that our story is unique, but I know that many of my public charter school colleagues are also on the front lines working to rebuild and provide a much needed sense of normalcy for their families. To all of you that have reached out in support, thank you. Our community has suffered much loss, but it is with everyone standing together in support of each other that we will come out stronger on the other end.

Your donation to the TCSA Harvey Relief Fund will help public charter school communities that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. 

My final day as TCSA Executive Director approaches and it is definitely bittersweet. The opportunity to serve as a leader in this vibrant and successful movement has been extremely rewarding. As most of you know, it also has been quite challenging.

As I reflect on our shared journey over the last nine years, I think one word expresses my feelings best: proud. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together. I think each and every one of you – whether a teacher, or a leader, or a parent or an advocate – should be proud as well.

We have come a long way baby!

When I started TCSA back in October of 2008, there were 90,000 students attending school at 374 charter campuses around the state. Last year, there were nearly 273,000 students on 675 campuses! On average, student enrollment at charters has grown at a rate of 12 percent annually and I have every reason to believe this phenomenal growth will continue for years.

In the early years, there were many challenges. Frankly, in the late 1990s there were charters granted to entities that never should have been allowed to educate our state’s youth. National studies showed that charter student performance lagged behind students in the traditional ISDs they left behind.

Over the last nine years, TCSA has maintained a laser focus on improving the quality of the sector. We have partnered with charter and school leaders across the state to improve governance, fiscal management, and operations. And, these improvements have allowed charter leaders to keep the eye on the ultimate prize: improving student outcomes.

And, yes, we have worked to ensure that charter schools that are not meeting the needs of kids or are not good stewards of taxpayer funds are shuttered.

We are seeing the results of this work. CREDO, out of Stanford University, released a report this summer that showed – in an apples to apples comparison – that charter students were outperforming their traditional ISD peers in Reading, and had completely closed the gap in Math. In fact, public charter students received the equivalent in learning of an additional 17 days in Reading. Over three weeks of additional learning!

The Texas Education Agency recently released its performance reports, once again showing that public charter schools serve higher proportions of students who are economically disadvantaged, African-American, Hispanic, and/or English language learners. These student groups outperformed their district peers in reading, writing, and social studies last year.

And, we are now seeing the results of this hard work pay off in a more charter friendly environment in Austin and elsewhere throughout the state. In the 85th Legislative Session the charter movement scored historic wins: Funding for facilities for the very first time; an additional $3 billion in Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee capacity; and we were able to protect the funds for charters serving our most vulnerable youth, and charters that have implemented truly innovative programs.

So, yes, I am very proud of our work. I think you should be too.

And, I am fully confident no one will rest on these laurels. The work continues. The challenges remain. I can’t wait to see future results.

Thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving as a leader in this movement. There is no more important work than serving students.

The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) named Dr. Soner Tarim the Leader of the Year and Ms. Brooke Lucero the Teacher of the Year at the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference last week. TCSA’s Chris Busse presented the awards to Dr. Tarim and Ms. Lucero at a luncheon with Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and discussed their contributions benefitting students and the charter school sector in Texas.

TCSA’s Leader of the Year Program
This award honors one outstanding charter leader from across the State of Texas. As the second recipient of the award for Leader of the Year, Dr. Soner Tarim received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter leaders that advocate for charters at the state and national level, have successfully replicated high performing charters that are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a mentor to other charter leaders.

Dr. Soner Tarim is the Founder and CEO of Harmony Public Schools and he has been an educational advocate for more than 30 years, encouraging students in underserved communities to pursue learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. He is a driving force for STEM education throughout Texas and the United States. He brings decades of experience developing innovative educational programs for K-12 schools to Harmony, which has garnered state and national recognition for its high academic standards. Harmony was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2017. The Broad Prize for Urban Education recognizes school districts in urban areas for closing the achievement gap by improving academic performance of low-income and minority students.

Under Dr. Soner Tarim's headship, Harmony has earned the reputation as one of the best charter schools in the country, many of its campuses recognized on prestigious high school rankings, such as News & World Report and Children @ Risk. These successes have only increased Harmony’s demand with 55 campuses scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year in Texas and Washington D.C., educating close to 36,000 students.

Dr. Tarim holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is a trained biologist and ecologist. He taught courses in biology, ecology, general science, and physical education at the high school, college and graduate-school levels, and spearheaded scientific symposiums and international science Olympiads, such as the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project – or ISWEEEP -- which attracts more than 600 top-ranking high school students from more than 60 nations.

Dr. Tarim continuously works toward building meaningful partnerships, maintaining effective communications and positive relationships with high-level corporate and civic leaders to advance high-quality, rigorous education throughout the state and nation.

TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program
This is the second year for TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program which honors one outstanding educator from across the State of Texas. As the recipient of the award for Teacher of the Year, Ms. Brooke Lucero received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter educators that advocate for charters at the local level, are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a leader on their campus and within their communities.

Brooke Lucero is a special education teacher at the Great Hearts Northern Oaks campus, and has 10 years of classroom experience. She inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. Ms. Lucero uses Socratic Seminar, knowledge of different learning styles, strategies, accommodations and modifications, knowledge of behavior analysis as well as multiple positive behavior supports and systems to work with the special education students she teaches. Great Hearts is passionately committed to cultivating the hearts and minds of students through the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.

On behalf of our members, TCSA recently submitted public comments to Education Commissioner Mike Morath on matters impacting students at public charter schools: New Instructional Facility Allotment and separately, the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. 

NIFA

RE: Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 61, School Districts, Subchapter CC, Commissioner's Rules Concerning School Facilities, §61.1034, New Instructional Facility Allotment

The Texas Charter Schools Association (“TCSA”) is the statewide membership organization for effective charter schools of all types, proudly representing nearly 275,000 students at more than 675 open-enrollment charter school campuses.  We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments in response to the Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 61, School Districts, Subchapter CC, Commissioner's Rules Concerning School Facilities, §61.1034, New Instructional Facility Allotment (“NIFA”). TCSA’s comments address concerns that the proposed NIFA rules, without further clarity, may exclude schools that would otherwise qualify for NIFA funds. 

Definitions of New Instructional Facility

The proposed NIFA rules, under §61.1034(a)(3)(A) define a new instructional facility as a “facility that includes: a newly constructed instructional facility, which is a new instructional campus built from the ground up.” Additionally, the rules indicate that an instructional campus has “its own unique ID number.” Taking these two definitions together, TCSA is concerned that the NIFA rules limit eligibility to only campuses receiving a campus ID number for the first time, and excluding existing schools with existing campus ID numbers that are building new facilities to also be eligible for NIFA funds. To ensure that schools constructing new buildings for an existing campus ID number remain eligible for NIFA, TCSA recommends removing ‘new’ so that the definition under §61.1034(a)(3)(A) reads as “a newly constructed instructional facility, which is an instructional campus built from the ground up.”

Additionally, under §61.1034(3)(B) and (C), the definitions related to repurposing an instructional facility or leasing an instructional facility, may unintentionally limit a public school’s eligibility for NIFA funds to repurpose or lease a facility that was previously used as a private school. Under §46.001 of the Texas Education Code, and under §61.1034(a)(2) of the Texas Administrative Code, an instructional facility must be “used predominately for teaching the curriculum required by TEC §28.002.” The repurposed instructional facility and the leased facility definitions indicate that the facility must be “renovated to become an instruction facility for the first time” or “a leased facility operating for the first time as an instructional facility.” By using “for the first time” in these definitions, the definitions seem to limit a school’s eligibility for NIFA funds to renovate a former private school or lease a former private school facility. Private schools do not meet the definition of an instructional facility under §46.001, since they are not required to teach the “curriculum required by TEC §28.002.” To clarify, and to ensure public schools are eligible for NIFA funds to renovate or lease former private school facilities, TCSA recommends adding “as a public school” to the definitions of repurposed instructional facility and leased facility to read, in part, as follows:

            (B) a repurposed instructional facility, which is a facility that has been renovated to become an instructional facility for the first time as a public school.

            (C) a leased facility operating for the first time as a public school instructional facility with a minimum lease term of not less than 10 years.

Potential Relief for Harvey

As a result of the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, many public schools throughout southeast Texas are currently, or will be in the future, rebuilding or renovating instructional facilities that were flooded. TCSA urges the Agency to review potential options of using NIFA funds to assist schools that need to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.

SAAH

RE:       Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 129, Student Attendance, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules, §129.1025, Adoption by Reference: Student Attendance Accounting Handbook

The Texas Charter Schools Association (“TCSA”) is the statewide membership organization for effective charter schools of all types, proudly representing nearly 275,000 students at more than 675 open-enrollment charter school campuses.  We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments in response to the Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 129, Student Attendance, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules, §129.1025, Adoption by Reference: Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. Based on the changes from House Bill 2442 of the 85th Legislative Session, and the June 27, 2017 To the Administrator Letter (TAA), our comments focus on changes needed to the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (“SAAH”) for clarity.

3.8 Calendar: Instructional Minutes v. Operational Minutes

House Bill 2610 from the 84th Legislative Session changed the requirement of 180 days per year to 75,600 minutes of instruction. During the most recent legislative session, House Bill 2442 sought to correct some of the unintended consequences of House Bill 2610. As part of the changes to school calendar requirements, House Bill 2442 changed “minutes of instruction”[1] to minutes of operation”.[2] However, the SAAH does not use these two terms consistently when referencing the 75,600 minutes requirement.

In section 3.8 Calendar, the SAAH starts by stating that schools “must operate so that it provides at least 75,600 minutes of instruction.”[3] In the following paragraph, the SAAH references the accumulation of “75,600 minutes of operation.”[4] Additionally, the TEA TAA regarding Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442 states that schools are required to “provide 75,600 minutes of operation.”[5]

Though House Bill 2442 does not take effect until the 2018-2019 school year, if the Agency is going to implement the minutes of operation requirement, instead of the minutes of instruction requirement, we urge the Agency to amend the SAAH so all references to 75,600 minutes read as “75,600 minutes of operation” instead of “75,600 minutes of instruction”.

Charter Schools with Unique Programs

The SAAH addresses the minutes requirement for district and charter schools operating alternative education programs (AEPs). Under Section 10, the SAAH indicates that a school operating an AEP is eligible to receive full ADA if the district or charter school provides at least 43,200 minutes of instruction. However, the SAAH does not address minute requirements or waivers for other unique programs.

The June 27, 2017, TAA letter indicates that schools operating programs such as “dropout recovery campus, a day treatment facility, a residential treatment facility, a psychiatric hospital, a school program offered at a correctional facility, an alternative education program (AEP), a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP), and a school operating under Texas Education Code (TEC), §29.259” will receive full ADA funding so long as the school complies with the “four-hour instruction rule.”[6] The TAA goes on to say schools offering these programs do not need to submit a waiver and a school will automatically receive a waiver from the 75,600 minutes of operation requirement. Unfortunately, the SAAH does not provide any mention of such a waiver.

For clarity, and consistency, TCSA asks the Agency to include language in the 2017-2018 SAAH addressing the automatic waiver for school district and charter school programs serving students in all AEPs as well as hospitals, treatment centers, correctional facilities, and adult education programs under §29.259.

Charter Schools Operating Prior to January 1, 2015

Finally, the SAAH does not address automatic waivers for charter schools operating prior to January 1, 2015. Specifically, House Bill 2442 from the 85th Legislative Session allows charter schools operating prior to January 1, 2015, and campus or site expansions approved by the commissioner after January 1, 2015,[7] to receive full ADA funding as calculated prior to January 1, 2015. Though House Bill 2442 will not be effective until the 2018-2019 school year, the Agency decided to implement this change in the 2017-2018 school year through an automatic waiver.

According to the TAA regarding Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442, charter schools will receive full funding if “they report 180 days of attendance and comply with the four-hour instruction rule.”[8] However, the 2017-2018 SAAH does not mention this option or automatic waiver. In order to ensure all charter schools are aware of the requirements and to remain consistent, TCSA urges the Agency to include the automatic waiver language, as well as the option to provide 180 days with the four-hour instructional rule in the 2017-2018 SAAH for charter schools operating prior to January 1, 2015, including any expansions approved after January 1, 2015.

Hurricane Harvey

TCSA recognizes and applauds the efforts of TEA in addressing the disruptive impact that Hurricane Harvey had on over 1.4 million schoolchildren in Texas. TEA’s guidance and continued leadership to assist schools to reopen and serve students is remarkable. Though TEA continues to issue guidance on a daily basis, to assist schools throughout the school year, TCSA recommends a section specifically dedicated to attendance, bad weather days, and funding as it relates to Hurricane Harvey. TCSA understands that the Agency is still developing solutions for schools, but a section in the SAAH providing contact information and already approved waivers would be helpful.

________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Instructional day is defined as the “portion of the school day where instruction takes place. The instructional day includes lunch, recess, intermissions, etc.” 2017-2018 Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, 273.

[2] Operational time is defined as “the time of when the first school bell to the last school bell (bell to bell).” Id. at 274.

[3] 2017-2018 Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, 68.

[4] Id. at 69

[5] TAA Correspondence, Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442

[6] TAA Correspondence, Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442

[7] House Bill 2442 allows a charter school operating prior to January 1, 2015 with an academic accountability performance rating of C or higher, to expand, with approval from the commissioner, and receive full ADA funding as calculated prior to January 1, 2015. 

[8] TAA Correspondence, Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442

Working at a public charter school is challenging. Longer hours with less pay, higher demands with fewer resources. Subpar science labs for experiments or too small of a playground for the little ones. Students who face seemingly overwhelming challenges that many of us adults will never understand. These things we all know to be true, but day-in and day-out we soldier on with a singular focus of doing best by children. We are rewarded with the knowledge that we are helping to change a child’s life trajectory or providing a family with a choice they previously lacked. We are warmed with the deeply intense relationships that we make with our students, families, and colleagues. These human interactions are what carry us through the difficult and challenging times in the aftermath of tragedy and loss.

Hurricane Harvey upended the lives of millions of people living throughout the path of the storm, destroying homes and businesses, overwhelming social services, and crippling critical infrastructure. Even as the storm raged and before predictions of damages were fully assessed, charter schools from around the country, state associations, financial institutions, and the private sector like began reaching out to offer aid and assistance. With Texans facing incredible losses, our charter families and schools answered the call to action; opening food and supply banks, rescuing stranded strangers and pets, donating funds and material goods, providing emotional support and a shoulder to cry on in the aftermath. They did this and more.

Our impacted schools have looked beyond their own physical losses, addressing the basic needs of students and families such as providing toiletries and food to more complex matters such as trauma relief and counseling. Many charter school students, particularly in urban areas like Houston, are low-income children of color. These communities were particularly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and with few resources, will continue to struggle in the months and years ahead. While the love and support of teachers and school staff alone cannot help these children overcome these challenges, they are a step in the right direction. A school represents not only an education, not only a loving place for children, but also a safe place allowing students to escape personal hardships and focus on learning. A place of hope where a community can gather together, seek solace, gain fortitude, and be bigger than just an individual or a family unit.

Despite their losses of an early childhood center and administrative building, Tekoa Academy in Beaumont partnered with the American Red Cross to provide hot meals twice a day at campuses in Port Arthur. At Odyssey Academy in Galveston, school staff, parents, and volunteers worked around the clock to tear out and hang new drywall, prep and paint, and salvage school supplies to ensure a smooth opening for students. Individuals like Simone Kern, from YES Prep in Houston, organized hundreds of teachers throughout the Houston area via Facebook to provide relief and assistance to families. Brandon McElveen, a counselor at KIPP Explore Academy, also in Houston, literally answered the call as stranded students and fellow teachers reached out. Using his raised truck and canoe, he helped rescue over 20 people from the floodwaters.

While these are just a few examples of how people have come together to support one another and rebuild a community, there is still much work to be done, both within and outside of the schoolhouse. Our students and families are in need of tools and equipment, building materials, and financial resources to help rebuild homes, abate mold, purchase vehicles, and secure stable housing. With the closure of the largest shelters, and FEMA backlogged with claims to review, it will likely be months and years before the area is fully recovered. Consider supporting relief efforts by donating to TCSA’s Harvey Recovery Fund by clicking here. 100 percent of funds will go directly to the charter schools impacted by Harvey.

Now more than ever our students, families, neighbors, schools, and communities need our support.

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