February 8, 2013

Litigation Trial - Judge Dietz Ruling

School Finance Litigation Trial
To a packed courtroom with standing room only, the Honorable Judge Dietz orally pronounced his rulings in the 45 day long school finance trial Monday, February 4, 2013. Judge Dietz ruled in favor of the five traditional district plaintiffs, finding for the various traditional district plaintiffs that the state funding system is unconstitutional, as it is inadequate, inefficient, and unsuitable to meet a "general diffusion of knowledge" as required by West Orange Cove Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist., 176 S. W.3d 746 (Tex. 2005), the leading school finance case in Texas.  Click the links below for more information regarding the trial:

Litigation Trial Update - Day 1
Litigation Trial Update - Day 2
Litigation Trial Update - Day 3
Litigation Trial Update - District Court's Ruling
tcsa 150 Press Release: Charter school students denied constitutional protections in school finance ruling
By Tracy Young; February 4, 2013
(Austin, Texas) - The Honorable Judge Dietz orally pronounced his rulings in the 45 day long school finance trial this afternoon, and TCSA Executive Director David Dunn issued a statement following the Judge's ruling. The judge ruled in favor of the school districts' claims, finding that the school finance system is inadequate, inefficient and unsuitable. The judge ruled against the charter school students, parents and TCSA, and held that funding of Texas charter schools is within the discretion of the Legislature. "We are disappointed that Judge Dietz ruled against charter school students and their parents, denying them constitutional protections," said David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA). Read more.

Updated: School Finance Ruling Favors Districts
By Morgan Smith and Elena Schneider; February 4, 2013 
In a decision certain to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Monday in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state's school finance system. With a swift ruling issued from the bench shortly after the state finished its closing arguments, Dietz said that the state does not adequately or efficiently fund public schools - and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level.  The judge, who is expected to issue a more detailed decision in several weeks, did not elaborate further on his ruling against the charter school plaintiffs. He said that it was within the Legislature's discretion to fund charter schools differently than traditional public schools, and that any disparities in funding "do not rise to the level" of unconstitutionality. Read More.
Charter Schools 'Disappointed' With School Finance Ruling 
By Nathan Bernier; February 4,2013 
We are disappointed that Judge Dietz ruled against charter school students and their parents, denying them constitutional protections," Texas Charter Schools Association executive director David Dunn said in a statement. He added, however, that they were pleased with the ruling that the overall education system is inadequate. The school finance case was actually six lawsuits merged into one. Among them was a legal action filed by the Texas Charter Schools Association. They argued that charter school students had the same right to public facilities funding as children in traditional school districts. Read More. 
TCSA Members Gather for Quarterly Council Meeting
This week over 50 charter school leaders met in Austin for the first TCSA quarterly member council meeting of the year. TCSA staff provided updates on recent charter school law hot topics such as: the Generation 17 and 18 application process; charter school renewal; special education policies; new federal rules, and; guns in schools. The TCSA Legal Team discussed the status of the school finance litigation and our Advocacy Team led the discussion on legislative priorities and outlined the grassroots advocacy plan for 2013. In the afternoon our Member Services Team led an entertaining game of 'Family Feud' quizzing council members on charter school facts, legislative priorities, and member services.

Committee Chair Elected 
Congratulations to our new Annual Conference Chair, Jennifer Goodman of Odyssey Academy.

Be sure to mark your calendars for the post-legislative session council meeting in San Antonio on July 24th.
JOIN 2013 Membership   
THANK YOU for standing with TCSA in 2013!  TCSA is honored to work alongside quality charter schools paving the way in public school education for Texas students.

To learn more on how to maximize your membership in 2013, please contact Erin Tholen, Member Services Associate by calling 512.584.8272 or via email.

Become a member today!
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Watch this month's FREE TCSA Quality Framework Webinar: Quality Framework Reports and Data Overview 
Watch this recorded webinar and learn where to find each type of report in the Quality Framework portal. See how easy it us to use the graphs, charts, and tables available now. Topics include: How to view system, element, and indicator-level reports for the Self-Assessment and Comparative Reports, and where to find and how to use multiple years of historical data in the TCSA Data Pack, including enrollment, demographics, and performance data for your charter and for each campus.

Who should watch?

Superintendents, executive directors, principals, compliance officers, grant officers--anyone on your staff who uses data for reporting or planning purposes.

Watch now
Streaming recording link

Questions? Email the Quality Framework team. 
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TEA: No accreditation statuses for school districts in 2012-2013
AUSTIN - Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams announced today that the Texas Education Agency will not assign accreditation statuses to the more than 1,200 independent school districts and charter schools for the 2012-2013 school year.

"In preparation for the transition to the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) accountability system, the Texas Education Agency did not assign academic accountability ratings for 2012," said Commissioner Williams. "Because student performance is a key indicator in the state accreditation system, and because that data is not available due to the transition to STAAR, the Agency will suspend the assignment of accreditation statuses until the 2013-2014 school year."   
The accreditation statuses are based on state academic accountability ratings, the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (known commonly as School FIRST), data reporting, special program effectiveness, and compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

Under the Texas Education Code, the commissioner of education annually assigns one of four accreditation statuses to each school district: Accredited; Accredited-Warned; Accredited-Probation; or Not Accredited-Revoked. In the 2011-2012 school year, 97 percent of Texas school districts and charter schools earned full state accreditation.

Though no accreditation statuses will be assigned for 2012-2013, 14 school districts or charter schools that would have received a lower accreditation status (based on a FIRST rating of Substandard Achievement) during the 2012-2013 school year are being notified of that fact. In those cases, the Agency will require some additional steps.

The 2011-2012 accreditation status for each school district and charter school can be found on the TEA website at 
A Successful Charter Advocacy Day
Thank you to our great group of charter leaders who traveled to the Texas Capitol for Charter Advocacy Day. We had a number of terrific visits, and were able to reach out to the new and returning members of the Senate Education and House Public Education committees too. Thank you for delivering the message and telling our stories about quality charter schools in Texas. In addition, our public charter school group visited the Senate gallery, and we were recognized by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (San Antonio) while the Senate was in session.

Houston Rally for School Choice - Putting Families First!  TCSA Advocacy staff joined Houston-area charter leaders, parents and students for the Houston Rally for School Choice - Putting Families First! during National School Choice Week. Held at YES Prep Public Schools - West, there were students and parents on hand to hear from a bi-partisan group of elected officials - all connected by a desire to help parents exercise educational options for their children. We heard from:  Rep. Gene Wu (HD 137-D), Chairman Dan Patrick (SD 7 - R), Rep. Dwayne Bohac (HD 138-R) and US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18 - D).

At the Houston, Feb 9th. Choice in Education Townhall 
Education reform is on the agenda!  
Please join the Americans for Prosperity Foundation - Texas for an in-depth panel discussion on Saturday, February 9th at 2:00 PM with leading education reform advocates from across the country. As the 83rd legislative session heats up, education reform is on the top of everyone's agenda and the panelists will discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in passing substantial education reform legislation.

The panel will feature Texas Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick, The Honorable Rod Paige Former U.S. Secretary of Education and former Houston ISD Superintendent, and Kevin P. Chavous Executive Counsel for the American Federation for Children.

Date: Saturday, February 9, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Houston Heights Learning Academy
Address: 902 W. 8th Street, Houston, TX 77007

For more information and to register please visit here. 

UPDATE: TEA Special Education Policy Deadline Extended
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has extended the deadline for updating special education policies in the IDEA 2004 Legal Framework system maintained by the Region 18 ESC (Midland). Previously, TEA required that each LEA update its special education policies on that site by November 30, 2012. The new deadline is March 15, 2013. In collaboration with a Special Education Working Group at the Region 13 ESC (Austin), TCSA has prepared a set of compliant special education policies that is now available to all charter schools free of charge, regardless of the school's status as a TCSA member. As a reminder, charter governing boards must approve these policies before they are uploaded onto ESC Region 18's Legal Framework for the Child-Centered Special Education Process.

For access to the special education model policies and instructions for adapting, adopting and uploading the policies, contact your local regional education service center.  

Note that Region 18 deleted all current policies from the system on Monday, November 19th.
Every school should ensure that it has a copy of its current policies for its records.
For more information contact TCSA Director of Legal Policy Services, Lindsey Jones byph. 512.584.8272 or via email.

TCSA Facilities Training Date & Location Change:

Thursday, Feb. 28 - Friday, Mar. 1, 2013, 9:30AM - 4PM

Educational Resource Center Inc.  
Training Facility  
10325 Bandera Road 
San Antonio, Texas 78250

Does your charter school have an adequate facility to meet your vision?
Join us in San Antonio, TX for two days of game changing insights to move your facility development and maintenance plans into the 21st century.

Come join us for this sought after session for charter executives, administrators, and board members all focused on giving you the most up to date information regarding charter school facilities.

Target Audience:
Board Members
Central Administrative Officers
Business Managers

Topics Include:
Overview of Financing Options
Maintenance Plans for Safety & Security
Best Practices for Negotiating Leases
Preparing for the Bond Market
Facilities Funding in Texas

Payment Information:
You may pay via credit card, Paypal, check, or PO.
Early bird discount: $50 off member ticket; $45 off non-member ticket available until Today! Group discounts available until registration ends (register 3 people: $105 discount/member ticket; $100 discount/non-member ticket). Greatest discount will be applied.

Standard ticket Prices: $250 TCSA Member; $350 Non-Member.

Hotel Information

Four Points by Sheraton San San Antonio Airport Hotel

8818 Jones Malstberger

San Antonio, Texas 78216
Phone (210) 348-9960
Hotel website

The "cut-off date" for reserving rooms for the price $99/night in the Room Block is 5:00 p.m. local time at Hotel on February 22, 2013.

Register today!

Contact Art Serna, TCSA Director of Training Services, at 512-584-8272 or via email.

TCSA HR Training: Wait - Is Your HR Strategy Ready for 2013?
Join us in Houston or Dallas, TX for a dynamic training day that will get you ready to approach your school's HR matters in a fresh way.

In this year of increased scrutiny and rapid change, charter schools need to have a sound and up-to-date set of HR policies, procedures and practices. Doing so not only helps to prevent possible legal and compliance issues, but all of these are critical components to the success and stability of a school.

TCSA is happy to provide this timely and charter school specfic training session to help Texas charter schools tighten up their HR practices and make appropriate modifications.

Topics Include:
  • The priority matters to cover at new employee orientation
  • Essential items to cover at employee orientation for returning employees
  • The critical steps to successfully adding a new employee to your school
  • Understanding the 501 (c) 3 requirements for your charter school around HR
  • Highlighting the top tax issues to consider for 2013
  • And More!

Location Options:
Houston, TX - February 14, 2013 Register today!
Dallas, TX - February 28, 2013 Register today!

Contact Art Serna, TCSA Director of Training Services, at 512-584-8272 or via email.

TCSA Finance Training: Establishing Effective Accounting Controls and Reporting Mechanisms to Ensure Success

Join us in Houston or Dallas, TX for a stress reducing training day that will get you ready to approach your school's financial matters from your perspective and needs in mind.

In this year of increased scrutiny and rapid change, charter schools need to have a sound and up-to-date set of accounting policies, procedures and practices. Doing so not only helps to prevent possible legal and compliance issues, but all of these are critical components to the success and stability of a school.

TCSA is happy to provide this timely and charter school specfic training session to help Texas charter schools tighten up their accounting practices and make appropriate modifications.

Topics include:
Daily, weekly, and monthly accounting activities your school must have in place
Preparing and presenting budgets for stakeholders
Understanding the big picture of financial statements, including the balance sheet
And More!

Location Options:
Houston, TX - February 15, 2013 Register today!
Dallas, TX - March 1, 2013 Register today!


Contact Art Serna, TCSA Director of Training Services, at 512-584-8272 or via email.

TCSA Announces 2 NEW Preferred Vendor Programs for School Furniture and School Supplies

Objective: Provide charter schools across the U.S. with negotiated discounts on products necessary in everyday operations

School Supplies: 
S&S Worldwide: 25% (30% for new schools) negotiated discount plus Free shipping 
Staples: Pre-negotiated pricing plus free shipping

School Furniture: 
Hertz Furniture:  ~40% negotiated savings on school furniture plus 25 year guaranty     
Staples: ~40% negotiated savings on school furniture

A rigorous RFP process was conducted for each product and meets the standards as set forth in Texas purchasing requirements.  Each of these programs is part of a National purchasing consortium with charter school associations across the U.S.  TCSA will earn a portion of each sale that will be utilized to support advocacy, legal, financial and training & development efforts for our member schools.

Contact Brian Levy, TCSA Director of School Support Services, at 512-584-8272 or via
charter news

Proposed Charter School Would Focus on Adult Students
By Morgan Smith; February 1, 2013 
One in five people older than 25 lack a high school education, and employment projections indicate that over the next four years, 80 percent of the top 20 growth occupations will require education above the high school level. With that in mind, The Goodwill Industries of Central Texas wants to expand its reach by opening a charter school that focuses on getting high school diplomas for older students, instead of the GEDs that adult education programs traditionally offer. It would also combine the diplomas with additional career skills training including two-year certificates. The charter application will be filed in February. But first, there are obstacles to overcome. The state only provides funding for charters and school districts to operate dropout recovery programs for students under age 26.  

Judge: School finance system unconstitutional

By Kate Alexander; February 4, 2013

"As the economists put it: There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't," state District Judge John Dietz said, ruling immediately from the bench at the close of a 12-week trial.

Dietz also found that wide disparities have emerged between school districts that are considered property poor and their wealthier peers. And he said the Legislature has effectively imposed a statewide property tax in violation of the Texas Constitution because school districts have limited taxing capacity left, effectively eliminating local discretion. Read More. 


Dietz Rules: You want higher achievement, pay for it

By Jonathan Tilove | Tuesday, February 5, 2013 
The Quorum Report's Kimberly Reeves reported that it is "a chart from Politifact Texas that appears to have swayed the jurist.""The chart, created by the Legislative Budget Board, followed changes in education funding, adjusted for inflation, in 2004 dollars. By the time Dietz had followed the adjusted dollars, he saw little increase in funding and certainly not enough of an increase to address the rising academic standards in the state." And, Reeves reported, "Dietz speculated the price of those standards would be about $2,000 per student, or about $10 to $11 billion pumped into the existing school finance system." Read More.

Patrick: Texas needs real education reform 
By Dan Patrick; Feb. 8, 2013 
For nearly two decades, the debate over how to improve Texas schools has largely been a battle between voucher proponents and advocates for more funding. Meanwhile, other states have developed new education models that are producing higher-achieving students nationwide. Texas must move past this old, narrow debate and implement the best thinking from around the country to dramatically improve our schools. The situation is urgent. Only three in 10 Texas fourth-graders scored proficient or advanced for reading, according to national measurements.And though Texas has made some progress in achievement, it's not nearly enough to keep us competitive. In fact, our work force remains alarmingly under-educated.
Read more.
Texas lawmaker seeks school accountability changes   
February 7, 2013
AUSTIN (AP) - A powerful Texas lawmaker introduced a proposal Wednesday that would overhaul how the state's public schools are rated and the number of tests required to graduate high school while allowing for specialized diplomas. The changes proposed by state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, include many of those championed by Education Commissioner Michael Williams and answers complaints from parents about a new standardized testing regimen that includes 15 exams to graduate. Other lawmakers have introduced measures in the Texas Legislature to make some of the same changes, but the scope of House Bill 5 and Aycock's role as chairman of the Public Education Committee make it the most far-reaching and important bill yet. Read more. 

Judge: Texas School Finance Plan Unconstitutional
By Will Weissert; February 5, 2013 
State District Judge John Dietz ruled the funding mechanism does not meet the Texas Constitution's requirements for a fair and efficient system that provides a "general diffusion of knowledge." He declared that funding was inadequate and that there were wide discrepancies in state support received by school districts in wealthy parts of Texas versus those in poorer areas. He also said the system is tantamount to an income tax, which is forbidden by the state constitution. It was the second time in less than a decade the state has been ordered to remake its school finance system. Read More.
A timeline through the years of legal challenges to Texas' school finance system 
By The Associated Press; February 04, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas - Here's a look at major dates in Texas' school finance debate:
- 1984: Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio files a legal challenge arguing Texas' school finance system is inequitable

- 1989: The Texas Supreme Court throws out the state's school funding law after finding "glaring disparities" between rich and poor school districts.

- 1993: Days before a court-imposed deadline threatened to close Texas schools, the state Legislature forces school districts in areas with high property values to share their tax collections with poorer districts as a way to fund schools.

- 1995: The Texas Supreme Court upholds the share-the-wealth system, nicknamed "Robin Hood."

- 2003: Attorneys for property wealthy school districts argue before the Texas Supreme Court that school funding plan is inefficient and has created an illegal statewide property tax after many districts pushed collections to the legal limit. Nearly 300 other districts eventually join the case and expand its claims against the state to include that the funding system is inequitable and fails to provide sufficient resources. Read more. 

educationweek Texas School Finance System Violates State Constitution, Judge Says 

By Andrew Ujifusa on February 5, 2013
The Associated Press reported that Dietz, after listening to closing arguments from both the state and the roughly 600 districts that had sued the state following $5.4 billion in state aid cuts in 2011, ruled that the system is inefficient, unfair, and does not allow for the "general diffusion of knowledge" in K-12 schools. In more concrete terms, he also said that the state's new demands on students and schools to perform up to snuff on standardized tests (the STAAR testing regimen and end-of-course exams) means that the state has a duty of its own to provide adequate resources: "There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't," Dietz said. Read More.  

Editorial: ZIP codes are tied to a Dallas child's destiny
February 4, 2013 
Sobering data from the Stand for Children-Dallas organization highlights a cradle-to-prison pipeline in some parts of our city. The research reaffirms why the Dallas school district must tackle the issues that affect neighborhoods as well as schools, which is one of Superintendent Mike Miles' top priorities. The cradle-to-prison pipeline is a term that experts use to describe the odds a child has of ending up in prison based upon neighborhood. In Stand for Children's study, researchers looked at which parts of the city account for the most inmates in state prisons and discovered, based on 2008 data, that 10 Dallas ZIP codes account for 3,100 prisoners. Read More.
Ruling twice denies Texas charter schools 
February 06, 2013
Amarillo, TX -- When a district judge ruled this week that the Texas school financing system is not only deeply flawed, but inherently unconstitutional, public schoolteachers cheered -- but charter schools had less to celebrate. Monday's ruling gave public schools a sense of hope that equitable funding could someday be restored to Texas classrooms - but charter schools - publicly-funded schools held under less government oversight - were denied both funding and the ability to expand. District Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of public schools, but rejected a push to end the cap on how many charter school permits can be issued, which currently stands at 215. Read more. 
job post of the week
American Youthworks
Austin, Texas

Job ID: 174262 Application Deadline: Posted until Filled
Posted: February 1, 2013     Starting Date: Immediately


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2012-2013 Financial Solvency Survey   

The 2012-2013 Financial Solvency Survey is now available. Please visit the Texas Education Agency website for a link to the survey and the PDF preview of the survey.


The survey will not allow you to print your results, so we recommend that you print the PDF and complete it before submitting the survey. This copy can then serve as your record. The deadline for submission is 5:00 p.m., Friday, March 1, 2013.

2012-2013 Financial Solvency Survey open and close dates:

Open: February 6, 2013
Close: March 1, 2013

If you have any questions, please contact Belinda Dyer at (512) 475-3451 or via email. 

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Special Charter School Report of Students Enrolled and Students with Disabilities Receiving Special Education Services through Public Law 108-446 (Newly Opened and Significantly Expanded)

January 31, 2013

The purpose of this letter is to request child count data from charter school officials to determine eligibility for 2013-2014 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B (IDEA-B) final allocations.  


The reporting system will be available in eGrants from February 1, 2013, through 5:00 p.m. Central Time on February 22, 2013. Child count data must be reported during this period of availability through the eGrants Special Collections, 2012-2013 Special Education Data Request-Newly Opened/Significantly Expanded form.


The open-enrollment charter school must have both of the following to meet the criteria for significant expansion of enrollment:
*    A minimum student    

       enrollment of 50
*    Increase in enrollment  

       must be 50% or greater

The instructions for this data report are enclosed to provide information detailing how to enter, certify, and submit the child counts. Read more. 

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The 2012 Student Assessment Data Validation Manual is now available here. The 2012 Student Assessment Data Validation district reports are scheduled to be posted to the secure TEASE Accountability application on Friday, February 22, 2013.
Technical Assistance:  
Performance-Based Monitoring (PBM) contacts are available at each education service center (ESC) to provide technical assistance to school districts.  Latest updates to the ESC PBM contacts can be found here, using the Search RESCs function.  
For questions about interventions, including ISAM inquiries, please contact: Program Monitoring and Interventions by calling 512.463.5226 or via email.
For questions about the manual or the indicators described in the manual, please contact: Performance-Based Monitoring by calling 512.936.6426 or via email.   

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Annual Financial and Compliance Report  

ESCs with a fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 must submit their 2012 annual financial and compliance report to TEA by November 27, 2012. ESCs with a fiscal year ending August 31, 2012 must submit their 2012 annual financial and compliance report to TEA by January 28, 2013.

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Change to Automobile Mileage Reimbursement Rate

December 19, 2012

Applicable to State and Federal Grants from the Texas Education Agency
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has changed the automobile mileage reimbursement rate. On January 1, 2013, the rate increased from 55.5 to 56.5 cents per mile. Travel and lodging reimbursement rates have not changed. The standard rates, effective until August 31, 2013, are up to $77 per night for lodging and up to $46 per day for meals, unless a higher rate for the travel destination is specified. Read more.