Did you know that nearly half of all charter districts in Texas were in danger of losing out on $200 per student this year? We did, and we fought for our schools.

In December, TCSA was successful in helping protect facilities funding for 72 Texas charter districts. Last year, TEA decided not to issue letter grades to districts impacted by Harvey (17 districts) and single-campus charter districts (55 districts). This is problematic because good academic performance under the new A-F letter grade accountability system is a requirement to receive facilities funds that were set aside in a new law that passed in 2017.

On behalf of our member schools, we worked with TEA to correct this oversight and were the only voice advocating for 72 charter districts that could have lost out on an additional $200 per student. We’re thrilled that we helped deliver this win for Texas charter schools. In total, TCSA helped put more than $17 million back into charter school classrooms this school year. Seventeen Harvey-waiver charters received a total of $11,239,502 in facilities funding, and 55 single-campus charters received a total of $5,896,222 in facilities funding.

We’re proud to advocate for charter schools – not just at the state Capitol, but at TEA, and the local level as well. We’ll continue to fight so that charter schools have the funding, freedom, and flexibility to accomplish their missions and grow to serve the 140,000 names on charter waitlists in Texas.

You can read about our 2019 Policy Priorities here. Have questions about common charter myths? Help debunk them with this information.

Starlee Coleman

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 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. 

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.

The wake of Hurricane Harvey has been devastating to Texans in the Gulf Coast Region over the last week, and we continue to monitor the full effects of this storm.

As you know, Houston, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and the surrounding areas are home to a large number of public charter schools serving thousands of students. We understand that students and families have been displaced while many campuses are not currently in operation. We have received offers from across the country to help students and schools, and we continue to gather this information and will provide you with updates as they become available.

On behalf of the Texas Charter Schools Association, I want to assure you that we are here and our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the disaster. 

We have compiled some information on our webpage, Hurricane Harvey Resources, and will continue to update this with new information as it becomes available.

Additionally, we have learned of a volunteer effort led by teachers in the Gulf Coast Region.  Please click here to learn more. 

Please contact us by email or at 512-584-8272 with your questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.