Texas Lawmakers Give Powerful Push for More Charter Schools
According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and other news outlets, on Wednesday Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick unveiled an education reform package that includes lifting Texas’ current 215 school cap on charter schools. "We don't have time for evolution in our public schools. We need a revolution," said Patrick. “Choice makes our schools stronger.” Dewhurst views lifting the state's cap on charters as opening a vital escape route for kids trapped in failing schools. "Having a choice means giving children a chance," he said. Julie Norton, a spokesperson at Harmony Public Schools, said raising the cap "will give an opportunity for other charters and other innovative ways of educating students to surface." David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA), said Dewhurst and Patrick “recognize the strong impact that quality public charter schools have on students and public education across the state.”
Sources: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, FOX Houston, Examiner
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Indiana Judge Rules Districts Can Sell Vacant School Buildings, Despite Law
According to the Journal-Gazette and other news outlets, a judge has ruled that two northeastern Indiana school districts can sell vacant school buildings, bypassing a state law requiring them to offer unused builidings for four years to interested public charter schools, who can buy them for $1. The Indiana Public Charter Schools Association had challenged two school districts’ plans to sell vacant school buildings, one to a county airport board and the other to a Catholic diocese. Allen Superior Court Judge Nancy Boyer ruled Tuesday that the four-year waiting period wasn't triggered unless a charter school files a letter of intent expressing interest in the building. Russ Simnick, president of the charter schools group, said an appeal was being considered. "It essentially allows a district to get rid of a building at any time," he said. Simnick also said he supported shortening the four-year waiting period and that lawmakers may consider amendments in the 2013 legislative session.
Sources: Journal-Gazette, WANE, KXAN
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Georgia Judge Rules in Favor of Charter Schools in Pension Lawsuit
According to Midtown Patch, a judge ruled Wednesday that Atlanta Public Schools (APS) violated state law when it withheld $2.8 million in funding from eight Atlanta public charter schools in order to meet its pension liability obligations. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy L. Shoob ordered APS to give the money to the charter schools and to follow state funding guidelines in the future. Earlier this year, the district said schools had to absorb a 9.5 percent cut in funding because property tax revenue fell, and reduced charter school funding an additional 6.5 percent. The funding drop is one factor which led to the closure of Tech High School at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Other schools, like Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, have had to increase class sizes and seek out more grant funding. "The charter schools are entitled to a certain stream of funds," said Rocco E. Testani, the attorney representing the charter schools.
Source: Midtown Patch
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Op-ed: Charter Schools Will Help Mississippi Students
In a Hattiesburg American op-ed, Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute writes: “It’s good for Mississippi kids that lawmakers are gearing up to consider allowing charter schools in the state. A 2011 review of the best research available on charter schools, which covered 40 studies, found that charter schools directly improve students’ reading and math abilities in elementary and middle school. Mississippi kids desperately need that, as the latest Nation’s Report Card results show them performing far below national averages. Three-quarters of Mississippi fourth graders cannot read or do math at grade level…Because every child only has one shot at being age 8 or 11, it’s unconscionable not to give them every option available that might help them learn…Every option should be on the table, and lawmakers shouldn’t rush, but they should move with the haste appropriate to children who can’t lose another day of their educations.”
Source: Hattiesburg American
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Energy Foundation to Fund STEM Programs at Five Philadelphia Charter Schools
According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the Exelon Foundation on Wednesday awarded a three-year, $450,000 grant to ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania to expand science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs at five public charter schools in the Philadelphia area. The five ASPIRA schools will collectively receive $150,000 a year for three years. The Exelon Foundation is the charitable arm of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which owns Peco Energy Co., the Philadelphia-based electric-and-gas utility. Peco will provide volunteer support, board service and project management for ASPIRA’s STEM programs.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal
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Four D.C. Charter Schools Band Together to Form New International High School
According to the Washington Post and Washington Examiner, four D.C. public charter schools are collectively creating a middle and high school that will offer intensive foreign-language instruction and an International Baccalaureate diploma. The District of Columbia International School (DCI), which will open in 2014-15, is a collaborative effort by four charter schools that currently offer Chinese, French and Spanish immersion programs for younger students. DCI is expected to enroll 1,000 to 1,400 students in grades 6 through 12. Students will experience DCI as one school but will technically stay enrolled at their feeder charter schools. "Our kids needed a path to continue their language learning," said Mary Shaffner, founder of Yu Ying Public Charter School. Other than one district middle school, there are currently no public secondary school options in D.C. for advanced second-language study. “At least for me, this is a terribly exciting development,” said D.C. Public Charter School board member Darren Woodruff.
Sources: Washington Post, Washington Examiner