On April 28, 2016, the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) held its quarterly Member Council Meeting at the Texas Computer Education Association Conference (TCEA) Center in Austin. Approximately 65 representatives from TCSA’s member charter schools participated in the day-long meeting.

After a brief welcome by TCSA Executive Director David Dunn, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath kicked off the day with remarks and provided some information on his background which includes serving on the Dallas School Board for four years, attending a public magnet school in Garland and graduating from college in two years, starting a software company, and his work with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program. He also addressed his approach to delivering high quality education to students by including these systemic levers: governance, human capital, instruction, and scope. Some of the questions the Commissioner spoke to were on topics such as the number of days of instruction, community schools, increasing the number of charter holders in the state, and rigor as it pertains to the STAAR test. TCSA appreciates Commissioner Morath taking the time to attend and meet with the charter school operators and representatives from across the state.

The next agenda item was an update on the Board Development Project by Sarahi Gross of El Paso Academy, the Chair of the Board Member Governance Task Force Committee and Kathleen Zimmerman of NYOS who also serves as the Member Council Chair. Gross led the discussion and provided information about their work with Mission Capital, while several other members weighed in on the board election process throughout the discussion. Following this agenda item was dialogue on the call for leadership candidates and nominations, although the formal election process will take place in July.

David Dunn gave an update on the priorities and efforts for Charter Schools Now, the recently developed 501(c) (4). Veronica Garcia, TCSA’s Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, then briefed the members on advocacy and the results from the legislative survey which identified the member’s priorities and determines the agenda for the next legislative session in 2017.

Chris Busse, TCSA’s Vice President for Quality Services, also gave an overview for the Texas Charter Schools Conference which will be October 3-5, 2016, in Austin at the J.W. Marriott. TCSA encourages everyone to register as soon as possible. If you are interested in presenting, make sure to submit your conference proposal for consideration by May 15, 2016.

Veronica Garcia ended the day with a legal update covering topics including waivers for HB 2610, comments for Districts of Innovation, the new Pre-K grant, cameras in special education classrooms (SB 507), and the pending school finance litigation.

TCSA appreciates the members for their participation and also, extends a special thank you to Hertz Furniture for sponsoring the lunch and TCEA for providing the facility space.

The Texas Charter Schools Association applauds Governor Abbott’s selection of Dallas ISD Trustee as the next Commissioner of Education. Abbott’s bold selection signals the Governor’s strong commitment to meeting the needs of all students. Morath is a thoughtful, student-centered advocate, who is driven by research. He is unafraid to tackle tough issues facing our public education system. We are confident he will work hard to ensure the 227,000 students enrolled in public charter schools are well supported by his office.

During his tenure as a Dallas ISD Trustee, Morath has focused on innovation, smart resource investment, school leadership, and parent engagement. These are all policy areas where charter schools are leading the way for all public schools.

We welcome the new Commissioner and look forward to working with him to meet the needs of the more than 100,000 families waiting for a seat at a public charter school. Morath is the right leader to ensure the public charter school sector in Texas is the strongest in the nation.  TCSA will work with Commissioner Morath to meet the needs of students seeking innovative public school options.