Two weeks ago, the 86th Texas Legislature convened, so we are officially in session! On day one, The Texas House unanimously elected Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) as Speaker of the House. In his acceptance speech, the Speaker highlighted school finance reform, which the Governor and Lt. Governor have also emphasized, as a top priority for this session. With multi-billion dollar education spending increases in both the House and Senate budgets, as well as significant increases to the state’s General Fund and Rainy Day Fund, there is sure to be major legislation on that topic.

While over 1200 bills have already been filed, the big news from the Capitol so far has been changes to committees in both chambers. The House added two members to both the Public Education and Higher Education committees. The House announced committee memberships on Wednesday the 23rd, with 8 returning and 5 new members in the Public Education committee.

Returning members:

  • Chair Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood)
  • Vice Chair Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)
  • Alma Allen (D-Houston)
  • Harold Dutton, Jr. (D-Houston)
  • Ken King (R-Canadian)
  • Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas)
  • Mary González (D-San Elizario) (Rep. González was not a member of the committee in the 85th session, but was in the 84th)
  • Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston)

Newcomers:

  • Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin)
  • Steve Allison (R-San Antonio)
  • Keith Bell (R-Forney)
  • Scott Sanford (R-McKinney)
  • James Talarico (D-Round Rock)

The Senate committee memberships were announced on Friday the 18th, with the Senate Education committee remaining at 11 members – 7 returning members and 4 new faces.

Returning:

  • Chair Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)
  • Vice Chair Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville)
  • Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)
  • Bob Hall (R-Rockwall)
  • Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston)
  • Royce West (D-Dallas)
  • Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels)

Newcomers:

  • Angela Paxton (R-McKinney)
  • Beverly Powell (D-Burleson)
  • Pat Fallon (R-Prosper)
  • Kirk Watson (D-Austin)

Chairman Huberty’s strong leadership on the House Public Education Committee for a second term shows his commitment to Texas public schools. As a reminder Rep. Harold Dutton, the longest serving member of the Public Education Committee, authored pro-public charter school legislation HB 2337 last session. The 2018 Charter Champion, Chairman Larry Taylor retains his leadership position on the Senate Education Committee. Senator Donna Campbell, a strong public charter school supporter, previously authored numerous pro-charter school bills including SB 457 last legislative session. We look forward to working with all members of the Senate Education and House Public Education Committees this session.

Bookending the winter holidays were reports by the School Finance Commission and the House Public Education Committee. The School Finance Commission’s report is the conclusion of a year of meetings of a group of legislators, educators, public officials, and education policy experts on the best steps to reform the Texas school finance system. Though there are 35 individual recommendations, overall the Committee recommends balancing state and local funding for schools, restructuring and adding funding to target high-need student groups, and reducing property taxes and recapture.

Similarly, the House Committee’s Interim Report followed a year of research and testimony, including TCSA’s testimony on the issues of school safety, Hurricane Harvey relief, and charter schools. On the topic of charter schools, the committee recommends expanding ISD partnerships, helping charters fulfill their role in education children with disabilities, reducing funding disparities, and reconsidering some of the statutory disciplinary admissions policies that charters currently hold.

TCSA welcomes many of the recommendations from both reports and will track which recommendations move forward, how they work with other policy changes, and how they will all affect charter schools. We’re excited to see how the next few months unfold and to work with legislators ensure all Texas students have access to a high quality education.

 

It’s back to school after the holidays, and it’s time to get back to training! Join TCSA this January for two webinars that we are providing free to TCSA member schools. On Thursday, January 24 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. join us for Creating and Submitting a Successful Expansion Amendment - 2019 Edition. Follow along as we walk you through the step-by-step process for submitting a successful expansion amendment to TEA. Implementing the guidelines presented will help you assemble and submit your documentation correctly the first time and get your amendment approved. 

On Thursday, January 31 at 10:00 a.m. TCSA will present Tips and Tricks on Using Your TAPR to Boost School Performance. You've looked at your Texas Academic Performance Report and have shared the information in the report to your board and your community.  But have you really studied it?  Join us as we reveal ways to look at your TAPR data with a fresh perspective that will help you and your board make better data-informed strategic decisions and improve the performance of your school.

Are the members of your school team — board members, CEOs, business officers, and campus administrators — up to date on your TEA-mandated training requirements? We can help with that! Whether you choose to access our 24/7 on-demand training portal or prefer live training, TCSA has the right solution for your training needs. We offer significant discounts for bulk purchases of courses – the more you buy the more you save. Contact TCSA Director of Training Bruce Marchand to schedule your on-demand or live training today!

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

Public charter schools do not create racial isolation, despite an assertion made by a recent AP review. Rebuttals by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and Democrats For Education Reform (DFER) unravel the AP analysis claiming charters are driving segregation in public schools. In Texas, public charter schools account for 272,000 of the 5.3 million students, or less than 6 percent of all students enrolled in public education in our state.  The demand for more public charter schools is growing as a result of academic gains and not racial trends. Texas charters do serve larger proportions of poor and minority students as compared to their traditional school counterparts. When student demographics are compared, public charters enroll larger proportions of African American (+16 percentage points), Hispanic (+11 percentage points), and economically disadvantaged (+7 percentage points) students than traditional public schools. According to the most recent state performance reports, minority charter students outperform their traditional school peers in Reading, Writing, and Social Studies, and Limited English Proficiency charter students outperform in all subject areas. Parents and families choose public charter schools because they provide the best educational fit for their students.

The 2017 TCSA Annual Election began July 28th and closes October 11th.

A total of 14 leadership positions are up for election this year:

  • The Member Council Vice-Chair

TCSA Board of Directors (5 vacancies):

  • Large School Representative (3 vacancies)
  • Small School Representative (1 vacancy)
  • Standing Member School Small (1 vacancy)

TCSA Elected Advocacy Committee (8 vacancies):

  • Large School Representative (2 vacancies)
  • Small School Representative (2 vacancies)
  • College Preparatory Representative (1 vacancy)
  • Dropout Recovery Representative (1 vacancy)
  • Early Childhood & Elementary Education (1 vacancy)
  • Specialized Mission Representative (1 vacancy)

How to Nominate and Vote Online

All nominations, campaigning and voting are conducted electronically via the TCSA Quality Member Portal.

First, click here to log into the TCSA Quality Member Portal.

Second, click on ‘Membership Voting’ in red font at the top right hand corner of the page.  Here you will find the links to (1) the Candidate Nomination Form and (2) cast your vote in the 2017 TCSA Election. 

For your reference, this page also contains the TCSA Bylaws and Nomination and Election Policy, which sets forth leadership eligibility requirements, and the 2017 TCSA Election Timeline.  

If you would like to nominate someone other than yourself, please reach out to that potential candidate and ask him or her to complete the Candidate Nomination Form. 

Questions or problems? Please contact Maria-Theresa Sigua at msigua@txcharterschools.org or 512.584.8272.

The nominations form due date has been extended through Monday, September 4th at midnight CST.

2017 ELECTION TIMELINE

 

Task

Timeline as Per Bylaws or Process

Important 2017 Election Dates

 

Nomination Form Released

75 days prior to election

July 28

 

Nomination Form Due Date

Deadline has been extended

Sept. 4

 

Nominations Committee Review Period

Review period has been extended

July 28-Sept. 4

 

Candidates are notified of eligibility

To accommodate the extended nominations deadline, the Committee will review nominations as they are received and notify each candidate of confirmed eligibility shortly after receipt of nomination forms, but no later than Sept. 5. 

July 28-Sept. 5

 

Deadline to submit campaign videos and bios

31 days prior to election

Sept. 10

 

Slate announced

30 days prior to election

Sept. 11

 

Campaign videos and bios released Electronic voting begins

20 days prior to election

Sept. 21

 

Electronic voting closes

Day before election announcement

Oct. 11

 

Election Winners Announcement

Annual meeting

Oct. 12

 

Any Run-off Election will be conducted by paper ballot*

Annual meeting

Oct. 12

 

New Leadership Terms Begin

 

Jan. 1, 2018

 
       

*Only members present at annual meeting will actually be able to cast a paper ballot vote in a run-off election.

The lack of capital for building or renovating school facilities in low-income communities is a common problem. Fortunately, options exist to ensure that high-quality public charter schools can secure financing to meet the needs of their students. One such initiative is the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC).

If you have a project scheduled to begin construction in the next 12 months, now is the time to talk to possible NMTC partners! While the ins-and-outs of accessing that program can be confusing, Capital Impact Partners has put together an informational overview for members of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA). In addition to the overview below, we recently hosted a NMTC Program 101 webinar. Watch it here.

How do New Markets Tax Credits Work?

1) Each year, the federal government holds a highly competitive application process to award tax credits to Community Development Entities (CDEs) like Capital Impact Partners. The next round of awards is expected in winter 2017-18.

2) These CDEs serve as financial intermediaries through which private capital flows from an investor to a project in a low-income community, like a charter school. In return for funding a charter school project, the investor receives a tax credit equal to 39 percent of the cost of the investment.

3) As a borrower, you stand to receive a number of benefits from a NMTC transaction:

a. Favorable blended interest rate
b. Potential for high loan-to-value (90 percent+)
c. Minimized debt service
d. Seven years of interest-only payments
e. Potential for substantial debt forgiveness (20-25 percent of the total project cost)

NMTC transactions have a few other guiding principles with loan amounts of at least $5 million and a term that lasts seven years. Once that initial term is over, the facility will need to refinance. Due to the complex nature of the transaction, the borrower should expect higher than usual legal costs, though these are usually absorbed by the funding in the transaction and not paid out-of-pocket.

A NMTC Program report that provides further details, diagrams and examples can be downloaded here.

What Projects Qualify for NMTC Financing?

The simplest way to qualify for the NMTC Program financing is if your school facility exists in a census tract where the poverty rate in the surrounding community is at least 30 percent and/or the median income is below 60 percent of area or statewide median income. A CDE would be happy to research your proposed school site to see if it meets qualitications criteria.

Capital Impact and Texas Charter Schools

Capital Impact Partners is a national Community Development Financial Institution. A key part of its mission is to partner with a broad range of organizations to finance facilities that increase access to critical social services in low- to-moderate income communities.

Capital Impact Partners sees Texas as an important state to focus its attention and has placed loan officers in Austin to better serve local communities through the region. Capital Impact Partners recently closed a NMTC transaction with Montessori For All to build a new charter school facility. By taking advantage of the NMTC program, Montessori For All secured $14.5 million in NMTC financing, representing more than 100 percent of the appraised value of the property. Montessori For All will pay interest only on the debt at below market rates during the initial seven-year period. At the end of that period, almost $5 million of that financing will be forgiven.

"New Markets Tax Credits allowed us to build the school facility we need to best educate our students. We were able to borrower low cost debt, letting us spend more of our funds in the classroom. The New Markets process was tough, but we could not have done it without Capital Impact Partners. Their dedication and commitment to our project made all the difference. We're thankful for their partnership in getting our school built!"

– Sarah Kirby Tepera, Chief Operating Officer of Montessori For All

Our goal is to ensure that public charter schools in Texas receive the financing they need for their projects. If you have any questions, you can contact Will Robison, Senior Loan Officer, at 512-369-3597 or wrobison@capitalimpact.org.

Have you considered how instructional coaching might impact student achievement and ultimately scores within your charter system? Teacher coaching has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional professional development normally offered by charter schools. Informal, classroom-based instructional coaching has proven effective in solidifying teacher content knowledge and pedagogy and aided in teacher retention.

Coaching can be challenging without support for the coach. A clear understanding of the roles of the coach and how he/she will communicate with campus administrators must be established prior to implementation. Teachers must be informed of the objectives of coaching and have a clear understanding the instructional coach does not serve as an evaluator.

To support charter schools implementing this model for professional development, TCSA has created a new, multi-day training titled Instructional Coach Development. This four-day training will help new or returning instructional coaches understand their role in working with teachers and administrators to make a positive change at the campus level. The training will help instructional coaches learn how to develop behaviors and strategies focused on school improvement that can be used to change student performance outcomes.

Training Topics Include:

  • Developing a Professional Learning Community
  • How to Use Data to Drive Instructional Decisions
  • Reflective Listening Skills
  • Developing Lessons That Fully Engage Students and Ensure Equity
  • Content Focused Coaching
  • Providing Feedback to Teachers vs. Administrators
  • How to Develop a Culture of Rigor that Promotes Academic Growth
  • How to Handle Difficult Conversations

The dates for this training are August 1-2, October 6 and December 1, 2017. The cost for training is $500 per attendee. If you are interested in sending a coach to this training, please register prior to July 15. The presenter for this training is Paula Moeller. She led statewide instructional coaching on behalf of the Texas Education Agency while working at the University of Texas at Austin.

Register Online by clicking here:

 

Earlier this week, the 85th Legislative Session concluded at the Texas Capitol and I am pleased to report that the legislature passed two significant priorities for public charter schools that will foster growth and innovation in public education.

Permanent School Fund-SB 1480 by Senator Bryan Hughes and Representative Jim Murphy (author of the companion bill, HB 467) will help increase the number of students enrolled in Texas charter schools by providing additional capacity to the Permanent School Fund (PSF) to guarantee the financing of public charter schools. The capacity for the program will go from $1 billion to an estimated $4 billion beginning September 1, 2017, which means more classroom seats for Texas students and millions of dollars in savings for public charter schools.

Minutes of Instructional Time-HB 2442 by Representative Ken King and Senator Larry Taylor (author of SB 1660) will protect the funding of about 110 public charter school campuses that enroll nearly 21,000 students. During the previous 84th Legislative Session, HB 2610 passed with the unintended consequence of reducing the funding for public charter schools with unique programs, often serving our most vulnerable student populations. With the passage of HB 2442, the funding of these schools is safeguarded.

These two legislative wins, boosting the PSF capacity and fixing the minutes of instruction time, were achieved when 734 fewer measures were introduced and 1,173 fewer bills and resolutions were passed and sent to the Governor when compared to the 2015 state session. TCSA’s top legislative priority, facilities funding (SB 457/HB 2337), was not achieved, but went further in the legislative process and had more support than in any prior session with SB 457 passing out of the Senate, not once but twice. SB 457, filed by Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), and HB 2337 filed by Representatives Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville), Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), and Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), represented a bipartisan coalition from various geographic areas of Texas, a first in the history of the charter school movement in Texas. Separately, Representative Jason Villalba filed HB 1269, taking another approach to facilities funding.

HB 21 by Representative Dan Huberty, the House’s major school finance bill was amended to include charter school facilities funding towards the end of the legislative session. While the House and Senate considered HB 21 until the final hours of the session, ultimately, they were unable to come to consensus on this bill. We should be proud that our top priority was part of the legislative debate until the very end.

The strides we made as a movement were only possible because of the combined efforts of so many. Most notably, you, your students and their parents, were the strongest champions of our cause advocating for public charter schools with calls, emails, and visits to legislative offices. TCSA’s grassroots efforts include the addition of more than 18,000 advocates who generated nearly 12,000 messages to 173 of 181 elected officials at the Texas Capitol. More than 2,000 of you representing 30 campuses participated at the 2017 Texas Public Charter Schools Rally, and the very next day, SB 457 passed out of the Senate with an amendment by Senator Kirk Watson, who received more than 400 calls and emails from you. It was a remarkable campaign because of your support.

I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Chairman Larry Taylor, Chairman Dan Huberty, and the legislators and their staff who championed our cause and supported students at public charter schools.

Finally, I would like to thank my staff for their tireless efforts and contributions. The TCSA team went above and beyond working hard for long hours on behalf of students at public charter schools and I appreciate their passion and commitment to serving Texas families.

Onward and upward!

David Dunn
Executive Director

Three Good Reasons to make the switch to Digital On-Boarding for Student and HR enrollment

1. It’s less work and less expensive. 

Plain and simple, digital Student and HR onboarding is less work and saves money. With the right platform, charter schools can avoid the mountain of application and enrollment paperwork that kills productivity during the very time when it’s most stressful. Instead, those that go digital can distribute electronic forms so documents can be completed and signed electronically, which takes less time and effort for parents and school administrators.

When put into practice, this process makes organizations three times more likely to have a lower cost per enrollee as compared to a non-digital process solution.

Digital onboarding platforms allow organizations to save money on expensive paper applications and information packets. Easy integration with your organization’s software platforms (Student, payroll, HRIS, ERP, etc.) make opening day easier for your team.

2. It’s personal.

It’s rare that you see the phrases “go digital” and “it’s personal” in the same sentence, but digital onboarding frees up time for increased facetime, helping student and parent engagement.

3. It’s engaging.

Onboarding can be fun and engaging while still informative. By integrating videos highlighting your school mission and special programs in your digital onboarding strategy, you can excite your new parents and students about applying to your school. The more you do to make the process student-friendly and interactive, the more engaging it will become. And the more engaging your process is, the more likely you are to fill your available ADA slots with those students who are highly satisfied and motivated.

For more information, visit JR3 or contact David Hankins

There is great news for students on one of the Texas Charter Schools Association’s chief priorities for the 85th legislative session. Earlier this week, the Texas House passed legislation to expand the capacity of the Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee Program for public charter schools. After a landslide vote of 139 Yeas to 7 Nays, SB 1480 now goes to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.

We thank the bill authors, Representative Jim Murphy of Houston, District 133, and Senator Bryan Hughes of Mineola, District 1 for championing students at public charter schools and shepherding this legislation through this session. We also thank both Chairman Larry Taylor of the Senate Education Committee and Chairman Dan Huberty of the House Public Education Committee for their support.

The capacity for public charter schools to access the PSF Bond Guarantee Program will go from $1 billion to $4 billion beginning September 1, 2017. This expansion allows charter schools to access the total capacity of the program subject to the percentage of students enrolled in public charter schools.

As background, the Permanent School Fund (PSF) allows schools to participate in a bond guarantee program and in order to be eligible for PSF, public charter schools must achieve an investment grade rating from a national firm before the guarantee of the PSF. Public charter schools then have access to bonds with the full faith and credit of the State of Texas, which gives them the highest bond rating available (AAA). In turn, this lowers the interest rates on bonds issued by public schools.

This results in significant savings for public charter schools so that funds that would have gone to fees and interest, now go towards students for classroom instruction and materials. Public charter schools have more opportunity to grow and provide a quality education to the students of Texas.

Since 2014, public charter schools that meet the eligibility criteria have issued and refinanced bonds with the PSF Bond Guarantee Program. Leveraging the PSF and investing in these excellent schools has already realized a savings of about $10.5 million annually for the next 25 years. We anticipate savings to increase four-fold over the next five years.

Texas has extremely stringent eligibility requirements that public charter schools must meet to access the PSF bond guarantee program. Additionally, SB 1480 includes significant provisions to protect the integrity of the rating for the PSF over time. There is no cost to the state, and no impact to traditional district bond guarantees.

The final passage of SB 1480 was only possible because of the strong grassroots efforts led by charter school advocates and parents. Texas state senators and representatives received hundreds of calls, emails, and visits from charter school advocates on this issue. Thank you for your commitment to ensuring that students come first!

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