On February 27, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest court in Texas for criminal matters), issued a ruling invalidating Section 551.143 of the Texas Open Meetings Act.  That section had created a misdemeanor offence if members of the governing body “knowingly conspired to circumvent this chapter by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations.” 

Section 551.143 was designed to prevent “walking quorums.”  Walking quorums happen when members of a board would meet in small groups outside of the official meeting and discuss public business. 

The Court reasoned the language used in statute was unconstitutionally vague because a reasonable person should be able to know what conduct was prohibited in order to avoid it.  Specifically, the Court explained, “[t]o pass constitutional muster, a law that imposes criminal liability must be sufficiently clear (1) to give a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited and (2) to establish determinate guidelines for law enforcement.”  To emphasize this point, the Court created a few scenarios that would meet the legal requirements to punish someone for a violation of the law, but were not a violation of the spirit of the law.  Because they could determine scenarios which fell outside of their requirements, the Court determined the statute was unconstitutional. 

This ruling does not mean that a quorum is no longer necessary to conduct public business, merely that a violation is not a criminal offense.  The legislature has already filed bills to address this ruling and reinstate a criminal offense, but with more definite language.  In the House, HB2965, HB 3697, and HB 3402 have been filed.  In the Senate, SB 1640 has been filed as a companion to HB 3402.  TCSA is monitoring these bills to see if they pass.  While we wait to see what the legislature passes, best practices would be to ensure you are still maintaining quorums when discussing public business. 

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

The TCSA Nominations Committee is pleased to announce the 2018 Special Election Nomination Slate for the Standing Small School Board of Director position. The slate is available on the voting page of the TCSA Quality Portal.


Electronic voting, and candidate information is available now on the voting page. As a reminder, charter leaders are the designated voting representative and only small member schools are eligible to vote in this special election. Voting closes at 12 midnight CST on January 31st, 2018. Election results and any runoff (if necessary) will be conducted by paper ballot at the Member Council Meeting in Austin on February 1st, 2018 (Register here for the Feb. 1st Member Council Meeting)..


We encourage you to read more about the candidates on the voting portal.

Questions? Please contact Maria-Theresa Sigua at msigua@txcharterschools.org.

  TEXAS CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION
2018 SPECIAL ELECTION NOMINATION SLATE

Standing Member School Small Board of Director (1 vacancy)
David Ray, St. Anthony
Eva Sankey, Basis Texas - San Antonio
Howard Davis, Chaparral Star Academy
Jo Ann Simmons, University of Texas at Tyler
Rebecca Good, Legacy Preparatory
Virginia Lannen, Genesis School (Pegasus)

As we kick off 2018, the horizon is bright for both public charter schools and our association. As interim CEO, the prospect of selecting a permanent leader for TCSA is exciting. I am actively involved with the search committee to ensure we attract top candidates that share our passion for public charter education.  The association staff, board members, and committee leaders are making good use of time while the CEO search is underway. In the next few weeks, I will be hitting the road to visit with charter leaders to learn more about what we can do to improve our services and meet the needs of all TCSA member schools.

There are a lot of things we can be proud of at TCSA during our first decade. Our advocacy gains from last session – the first ever state facilities funding and the passage of the “minutes” bill from last legislative session are historic. In 2017, TCSA reviewed nearly 6,700 bills, provided more than 1,895 hours of training, and had more than 1,600 attendees at our annual conference. We can’t rest on past success. Now is the time to take stock of what works well at TCSA, but also focus on the future and ways we can be even more effective in the coming years.

Everything is on the table – from the way we set our legislative agenda, to the type of professional development we offer, to how we stay in touch and operate as a member led organization. Are there ways to make the member council more relevant to you, or ensure our legislative agenda addresses your concerns?  Do our trainings provide what your management team seeks? I don't believe you should fix what isn't broken, or make change simply for change sake, but we can always be better, stronger, and more efficient.  So now is the time to speak up, step forward, and share your ideas about the future of TCSA.

In the coming weeks we will launch several working groups that will re-envision core areas of operation: advocacy, training and services, and the member council. I encourage you to attend the next council meeting on February 1st. We will have more details at that meeting, and begin work on our advocacy agenda for the 86th Legislature. Now less than a year away, it's time to focus on our future legislative goals. We will also discuss the rulemaking underway at the TEA regarding district-charter partnerships.

It's my privilege to volunteer as your interim CEO. This is one way I can give back to the association that’s worked hard to advance public charter schools in Texas. Stay tuned, but more importantly – get involved in shaping the future of TCSA. Working together, our next decade will be even better than our first.

The Texas Charter Schools Association’s (TCSA) Interim CEO Chuck Cook tapped former association staffer Amanda List to serve as Interim Vice President of Government and Public Affairs.

Amanda is a principal of AList Consulting and served as TCSA's first director of advocacy. As one of the earliest hires for the association, she helped recruit new members during the organization's formation. Amanda has extensive state government affairs and public charter school experience including strong ties to the Texas Capitol and the Texas Education Agency. She will work with the TCSA Advocacy Team and the elected member advocacy committee as the association prepares for the next state legislative session in 2019.

"It's great to be back at TCSA during the transition to new leadership. I look forward to working with member schools to ensure our grassroots network continues to grow. Public charter schools had a great legislative successes this year and now we must defend our gains and do the work to prepare for what is next on the horizon," she said.

"Amanda has longstanding relationships with member schools and a great working knowledge of the legislative process and the players. She's a natural fit for the interim post," Chuck Cook said. Veronica Garcia left the senior advocacy post at the conclusion of the special session in August. The new CEO will hire a permanent vice president in 2018.

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 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.

As a founding board member of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA), I have been passionate about this organization since its inception. TCSA’s mission is to improve student achievement in Texas by advocating for and strengthening a diverse set of high quality charter schools. I’m thrilled to be a part of this mission both in my capacity as the CEO of ResponsiveED and now as the Interim CEO of TCSA.

I made a commitment to TCSA’s Board and to you to serve as the Interim CEO while the Search Committee conducts a national search for a permanent CEO. I want to assure you that my aim includes supporting and strengthening the good work already happening at public charter schools by providing continuity of services at TCSA and transparency in our efforts.

The future is bright for charter schools in this state and for the association. Last year, there were nearly 273,000 students at 675 public charter school campuses across the state and we continue to see growth in enrollment and campuses. Texas families want options within public education to meet the needs of their children, and these options come in various forms such as college preparatory charters, charters at residential treatment centers, STEM-focused campuses, and dropout recovery models. Public charter schools are meeting their promise by providing innovation in education and offering flexibility in the classroom.

While there is tremendous diversity in the scope, size, and mission of our public charter schools, we must work together as one voice to represent our sector and achieve our common goals. Whether we’re advocating for charter-friendly policies at the state capitol or sharing best practices through continuing education and training, we’re more effective as one body.

That’s why I encourage you to either join or renew your membership with TCSA today.

TCSA members receive:
• Representation with the Texas Legislature, Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education.
• Discounted legal products including model board policies, Student Code of Conduct, and a Personnel Handbook
• Access to the Learning Zone, TCSA's robust online training portal, and discounted registration rates for the Texas Charter Schools Conference
• Legal information and advice, as well as updates and alerts on specific matters pertaining to charter schools
• Tools to engage parents on advocacy efforts with the Texas Legislature
• Access to a growing market of solution providers and strategically-aligned partnerships with negotiated pricing and contract terms
• Resources and advice for navigating TEA requirements for your school's growth and expansion

Please, take this time to renew or begin a membership with TCSA. Add your voice to the conversation and ensure the charter movement continues to grow and succeed.

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 the membership process, please contact Nadia Luna.

Thank you for your continued support of charter schools in the great state of Texas.

Early voting is officially underway in Texas and Austin Achieve Public Schools is striving to increase voter turnout.

On October 4th Austin Achieve held a student-led voter registration drive to register eligible voters in Austin. A group of juniors from the school’s founding class of 2019, along with the help of a Travis county Volunteer Deputy Registrar, gathered at the school library for a voter registration drive open to parents, staff, and the East Austin community.

Students from Austin Achieve planned this event alongside AP US History teacher Travis Helm after learning about East Austin’s history of low voter turnout.

Eduardo Suarez Ugarte is a junior at Austin Achieve and wants Austin Achieve students to impact change by encouraging others to vote. “Voting has been an impactful way of having our voice be heard, yet in our city of Austin, voter turnout had been at its lowest last year at 42.6 percent. Most people are not voting due to the fact that they are not well informed. Information is the key that people need in order to make the best decision while voting.”

During the voter registration drive Austin Achieve students expressed their own desire to register to vote once eligible and shared their thoughts on the importance of bringing about sensible policies through the use of voting.

Each student plans to continue these efforts by encouraging their own family members to vote and spreading the word about the upcoming election dates and voting locations. Eduardo said, “Projects like these leave an impact in us as scholars, by showing us that we can help out our neighborhoods to be well informed. The feeling that we get from doing this is inexplainable, it's something that we are willing to do for our communities.”

Early voting runs through November 3rd and it’s important that all eligible voters make their voices heard by casting their ballot in the November election.

After the passage of HB 21 students in Public Charters Schools in Texas will receive funds from the state of Texas for facilities funding the first time. All this in part thanks to the the efforts of a well informed and active electorate of strong charter school advocates. Early voting began on October 23rd and ends on November 3rd. Election Day is on November 7th.

In the coming months, each of us can support the efforts of Austin Achieve scholars to help increase voter turnout by casting our ballots this November and continue our commitment to serving Texas students and families.

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