It’s not too late to submit an expansion amendment effective for the 2017-18 school year, but time is running short. The last day to submit an amendment to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is April 1, 2017. Since that day falls on a Saturday this year, the effective deadline date is actually Friday, March 31, 2017. Schools can expand no earlier than the start of the fourth full school year of operation. This restriction does not apply if the affected charter school has as its most recent rating “met standard” and is operated by a charter holder that operates other charter campuses and all of that charter holder's most recent campus ratings are “met standard.” In addition, for any school to expand, the most recent rating for 90 percent of the campuses operated under the charter must be “met standard” under the standard accountability procedures and received a district rating of highest or second highest rating for three of the last five years with at least 75 percent of the campuses rated “met standard” and no campus with the lowest performance rating in the most recent state accountability ratings.

The charter expansion amendment request form is pretty straightforward and one form can be used for one or all of the four types of expansions that are set forth in 19 TAC 100.1033 including adding an additional campus, adding additional grade levels, expanding the geographic boundary of the charter holder, and increasing the maximum student enrollment.

To add an additional campus, the school must have an “E” (education) occupancy code or a statement verifying that this certificate will be obtained prior to serving students. The application addresses a number of questions that must be considered for an additional campus, including the number of students, the number of students in tested grades (must be 50 percent by the third year of operation), the proposed number of instructional minutes, what grade levels will be served, if the campus will need a new campus number, and the type of accountability (standard or AEA). If the campus will be under Alternative Education Accountability (AEA), the campus must meet AEA criteria and register to be an AEA campus.

To add additional grade levels, the number and percentage of students to be evaluated under the state accountability system must be included in the application. In addition, an educational plan including a scope and sequence and specific curriculum to be taught for the additional grade levels must be submitted. There is no specific format provided by the state for this requirement, but it’s a good idea to provide more detail than not enough.

If you are expanding your geographic boundary, you must submit evidence that an impact statement was sent to each school district that may be affected by the expansion. The impact statement form and a sample district notification letter can be found on the TEA charter school amendments page. Since the commissioner’s rules don’t specify who should receive the notification letter and impact statement form, a best practice is to send those to both the district superintendent and the president of the school board. These names can be found on AskTED. The evidence that the notifications have been made is in the form of certified mail receipts, which you will need to submit as part of your expansion amendment.

To request an increase your maximum student enrollment, you must list your current enrollment and your requested maximum enrollment. You are only allowed to request an increase in your enrollment once during each calendar year.

As you complete your amendment requirements, remember that prior to April 1 you must convene your board to consider a charter holder board resolution, with printed names and signatures indicating that a quorum of board members voted favorably to amend the charter. As part of the resolution, you must indicate that the board has considered and approved a business plan and that a majority of the board considers that the proposed growth is prudent. The business plan is not submitted with the amendment request but which must be submitted to TEA within 10 business days if requested.

Finally, as part of the amendment you must submit an alphabetical list of districts in your current geographic boundary that may be affected by your request, evidence (certified mail receipts) that impact statements have been sent to each school district affected by the expansion request, a signed statement attesting that for the last three years no board member or employee has been deemed ineligible to serve due to instances of nepotism, conflicts of interest, or criminal history revelations, and evidence that your by-laws and articles of incorporation are current and on file with the agency. This can be accomplished by posting an up-to-date URL that links to your charter by-laws.

Again, the expansion process is not complicated, but amendment procedures can be tedious and require that you submit the proper documentation to TEA by the April 1 due date. That deadline is not flexible, so if you miss the date you’ll generally have to wait until the following year to submit a new amendment. Also, remember that things like changing the school or charter holder name, governance structure, articles of incorporation, bylaws, charter management company, admission policy, or educational program of the school are considered to be non-expansion amendments, and these amendments can be submitted anytime.

At TCSA, we’re more than happy to help any school with questions about the expansion amendment process. Please contact Bruce Marchand and we’ll help guide you through the expansion amendment process!

Over the last few months, Bruce Marchand and I have published a few blogs about our role in supporting charter operators to grow and expand. While Bruce most recently addressed the Expansion Process in his blog, I initially spent time discussing the frankly obscene waiting lists that we have statewide, with more than 141,000 students total. With National School Choice Week recently concluded, coupled with the fresh submission of charter-friendly legislation by Senator Donna Campbell, the topic of growth is yet again at top of mind. 

As our titles might indicate, Bruce and I support the growth and expansion of charter schools within Texas. As such a part of that work, we are spearheading efforts to implement a statewide survey of charter holders to better understand growth efforts in the next seven years. This data will provide critical insight to drive efforts across a variety of sectors to better serve you, our members. With increased understanding of potential cities and sites, for example, we can channel information from real estate brokers and land developers to appropriate charter holders. Moreover, this data could be used to focus our lobbying efforts to new areas of the state or a particular part of a city where a charter seeks to expand. The opportunities are truly without limit.

Despite the fact that our largest networks are continuing to expand, the demand for high-quality seats increases every single year. As more families actively engage in educational choice, waiting lists grow longer and longer. While on Facebook recently, I read the comments of both jubilation and sadness as families posted about a charter school’s lottery that had taken place over a weekend. One mother noted that it had been the fourth year in which she had applied for her children to attend. She further lamented that it was the fourth year in which her children had been waitlisted. Stories like this can be found across the state at charters of all shapes and sizes.

As such, we cannot underscore enough the need for high-performing schools and networks alike to leverage their resources, grow, grow, grow, and ultimately do what’s best for students. If you are a charter operator interested in growth, whether this year or in the coming years, please reach out to Bruce Marchand immediately. The window to submit Expansion Amendments closes April 1, 2017.

Finally, in the coming weeks, we will be sending out a short survey to the senior leadership teams and lead administrators for all of the charter holders across the state. This survey seeks to understand your strategic plans as they pertain to growth in Texas through 2025. If you are launching new schools, new regions, new programs, or new initiatives, we want to know about it! Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and help us to help you.

As always, Bruce, myself, and the entire TCSA team are here to support you and your students.

This time of year is appropriately labeled the holiday season, and of course for all of you hunters it’s also deer season. As the new calendar year approaches, for those of us in the charter world, we’ll soon be entering expansion season! Expanding your school is a great way to increase your capacity to serve students, but since it involves a modification of your charter, state rules require that you meet certain guidelines and follow the procedures set out in 19 TAC §100.1033 (b)(9) and §100.1033 (b)(10).

Essentially, expansion amendments permit you to do any combination of five things, including:
• Extending the grade levels served by the school;
• Adding an additional campus;
• Adding an additional site;
• Changing the charter’s geographic boundaries; or
• Increasing the maximum allowable enrollment.

The process for informing the state of your intentions to do any of these things is fairly straightforward, but there are certain requirements that must be met before an expansion amendment can be submitted and ultimately approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

First, expansion amendments may only be submitted for a school after the beginning of its fourth year of operation, unless the school is operated by a charter holder with more than one campus and all of its campuses including the school affected are rated academically acceptable or higher. In addition, for any expansion, 90 percent of the campuses operated under the charter must have been rated academically acceptable or higher in the most recent accountability ratings.

Second, expansion amendments can only be submitted to TEA during a two-month window – after February 1st and no later than April 1st. Prior to submission, the charter holder is required to provide evidence (a certified mail receipt) that a notice of the expansion amendment was sent to all of the districts in the charter holder’s current and requested geographic boundary. The purpose of the notice is to give affected districts an opportunity to submit a statement to TEA regarding the impact of the expansion amendment on the district.

Finally, expansion applicants must prepare and present to the charter board a detailed business plan per the elements outlined in 19 TAC §100.1033. This plan must be sent to TEA within 10 business days if requested to do so. Additional documentation required with the amendment include a board resolution approving the expansion and the business plan, a statement from the superintendent that all board members and staff meet the state requirements regarding nepotism and conflicts of interest as outlined in 19 TAC §100.1035, and a URL of the charter holder’s most current bylaws. Again, completing an expansion amendment is not overly complicated, but like all documents submitted to TEA, amendments and supporting material require all i’s dotted and all t’s crossed.

At TCSA, we’re committed to helping you cross the expansion finish line. With that, we are hosting a free two-hour webinar on Tuesday, January 10th appropriately titled “Creating and Submitting a Charter School Expansion Amendment.” Click here to register.

We look forward to you joining us for this free webinar on January 10th. And don’t let me forget to say “Seasons Greetings and a Happy Expansion Season!"

Contact me with questions about expanding your charter or this webinar.