Charter Schools

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

By the end of the year, a few Texas school districts may have access to millions in funding that Gov. Rick Perry had passed on two years ago because of concerns about federal intrusion into Texas classrooms.

Since Texas refused to participate in Race to the Top at the state level in 2010, the Obama administration has rolled out a new version of its signature education program to allow districts to apply individually for a separate pot of about $400 million in federal money. Administration officials announced the new round of competition that would emphasize data-driven personalized student learning plans in 2011, after three phases of the state-based contest.

KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is inviting community input at a public hearing tonight about the 2013–2014 Annual Academic and Facilities Recommendations (AAFR) tonight at the Carruth Administration Center on West Sixth Street.

There are a several important issues on the AAFR, the most polarizing being single-sex schools, improvements for athletic facilities and fine arts programs, and the expansion of the dual language program.

Here's a roundup:

  • The conversion of two middle schools to Single-Sex schools in northeast Austin were talked about back in August, but a School for Young Men was often left out of the headlines. The proposed School for Young Men would be college and career preparatory academy that develops a community of leadership and character centered young men. Enrollment could start as early as next school year.
  • The recommendation to improve athletic facilities has three potential proposals to throw out to community members with price ranges from $82 million to $179 million. Increased pay and flexible schedules for coaches are included within these proposals.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Texas Senate Committee on Education today talked about possible funding options to promote school choice.

Lawmakers want to know if having more school options will create competition and, in turn, make all schools in the state better. One option to encourage school choice is a so-called taxpayer savings grant program. The idea was proposed in the Texas Legislature last year as part of House Bill 33. It would pay up to 60 percent of the amount that the state spends per pupil each year on school maintenance and operations for private school tuition – that’d be about $5,200.

Joe Bast is the President and CEO of the Heartland Institute – a non-profit research center based in Chicago. He looked at the numbers and believes many Texas families would take advantage of the option and that it would save taxpayers a big chuck of money right away.

goat karma http://www.flickr.com/photos/goatkarma/ / Erik Reyna, KUT News / City of Austin by Mark Sanders

A high of 93 under partly cloudy skies is forecast for Austin today but it will feel more like 98 degrees with the humidity. Here are your top morning stories.

Lance Armstrong To Be Stripped of Titles?

Austin cycling legend Lance Armstrong is about to have his Tour de France victories “obliterated” from the record books, World Anti-Doping Agency boss John Fahey tells the BBC. As we posted last night, Armstrong said he was giving up his court battle with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) over allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs since 1996.

Shortly thereafter, the USADA chief said that means Armstrong will be stripped of his titles. Armstrong says USADA doesn’t have the authority to do that, but NPR’s Mike Pesca reports this morning that it does. "Greg LeMond is [now] the only American" to have officially won the world's most prestigious bicycle race, Pesca told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

Photo by Joel Martinez, The Texas Tribune

A crucial vote is scheduled for Monday by the Austin ISD school board. Trustees will decide whether to contract with a charter school operator from the Rio Grande Valley to develop an in-district charter school for children in East Austin.

Some school board members have expressed hesitation about a partnership with IDEA Public Schools. One of Trustee Annette LoVoi’s concerns focused on the transparency of governance at IDEA compared to the Austin ISD.

“We are a school board. We are transparent. We hold open meetings. We disclose all sorts of things,” LoVoi said. “I’d like to see a version of that undertaken by any entity that we contract with.”

Photo by Michael J. Cargill

Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders' charter school application was among eight approved by the Texas State Board of Education today.

The decision came after a brief discussion during which members raised questions about the schools' academic rigor and Sanders' involvement.

"I have no idea what the applicant plans to do in the classroom, how they plan to instruct the TEKS," said Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, adding, " I have no idea what they plan to offer in a day to day classroom experience."

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The State Board of Education cannot use money from the $25 billion Permanent School Fund to help charter schools acquire buildings or other facilities, according to a legal opinion issued today by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. He said the only consideration for investment should be how much money the SBOE earns on it, and how safe that investment is.

Photo by Wenjing Zhang, Texas Tribune

The largest charter school operator in Texas, Harmony Charter Schools, has come under the scrupulous microscope of the New York Times.  The paper published a front page, top-of-the-fold blowout on Harmony’s links to the Gulen movement, a Turkish religious group.

Photo by KUT News

Southwest Key, a national non-profit that operates a charter school in East Austin, is offering to lease Eastside Memorial High School and operate a prep academy in the building. Eastside Memorial currently houses a Global Tech High School and a Green Tech High School.  The Green Tech High was the only school in Austin ISD to be ranked "academically unacceptable" last year by the Texas Education Agency.

"That school has been low-performing for 11 or 12 consecutive years," communications consultant Paul Saldaña told KUT News. Saldaña's firm, Brisa Communications, is advocating on behalf of Southwest Key.

Pages