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Charter Schools Blaze a Trail to Fort Worth

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Change is definitely coming and charter school leaders across the State are hoping to be the best change in education for Fort Worth and Texas. Charter schools are fast becoming the choice for parents in Texas with student enrollment in charter schools more than triple the amount 10 years ago. According to the Texas Education Agency, 2003 school year enrolled 53,000 students in charter schools and 178,000 in 2013.

This December 11th, over 1300 charter school educators, community leaders and vendors will be in Fort Worth to kick off the 5th annual Texas Charter School Association’s (TCSA) conference at the Forth Worth Convention Center.

“TCSA is bringing the statewide charter school conference to my hometown of Fort Worth and I couldn't be more pleased,” said David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association. “We are celebrating five years of strong support for Texas public charter schools, five years of advocacy and quality services, and we are just getting started. At TCSA, we are committed to quality schools, individualized and innovative education and options for parents and students. As the demand for charter schools continues to grow, so does the need for our Association’s critical efforts on behalf of Texas students and parents.”

David Dunn is leading the group’s efforts in the Texas charter school finance litigation and is represented by the SLH Law firm in San Antonio. TCSA will no doubt have much to discuss with its members about the upcoming litigation. The conference is being sponsored in part by SLH Law firm, one of the firms representing schools in the education finance litigation. Joe Hoffer, a major partner for the firm, says, “The firm supports the conference because we believe in education reform and representing and advising charter schools and education reformers have become a significant part of our law practice.”

The TCSA website posts its latest update on the lawsuit stating that “What’s Next?” is the reopening of the trial beginning this coming January 6, 2014. Currently, the State does not provide any facility funding for charter schools while traditional independent school districts do receive facilities funding. This inequitable funding for some of the State’s children, the case defends is unconstitutional. Charter Schools also claim that the State’s cap on charter schools is arbitrary. TCSA’s attorneys base the claim that because some charter schools have waiting lists that it is unfair to limit the number of charters in Texas which would provide equal opportunities for all students to attend charter schools if they chose. In a TCSA press release dated June 2013, David Dunn states,

“"We are disappointed that charter school students will have to continue to wait for constitutional protections," said David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA). "They have the same constitutional right to equitable and adequate funding as every other Texas public school student. Parents and students do not give up their right to constitutional funding by choosing the best public school option for their child. Every day they must wait is one day too long."

When a nonprofit applies for a charter, it is the charter that requests how many students they want to enroll, thereby setting their own limits on how many students may attend the school. For example, here in Fort Worth, one of the 18 charter schools listed on the TCSA website, Uplift Summit Prep, reports an enrollment of 764 students on their submitted report to Texas Education Agency, while the charter’s application to the State requested an enrollment of 1,108. Also, once a charter’s campus is full, the charter may request an expansion amendment and provide more space for more students. The claim in the lawsuit is more specifically requesting that there are more nonprofits allowed to open more charters in Texas. This is where the discussion of a cap on charters versus just expanding existing charters that are at enrollment capacity and have waiting lists will come in to play and require a decision on which side of the constitutional issue the judge will rule. The obstacle for the existing charter is facilities funding. Without the funding, it is a challenge to acquire the facilities needed to expand and offer more opportunities to increase enrollment. Some charters have chosen by design to maintain small campuses or limit themselves to only a single campus as part of the charter’s mission.

TCSA's website shows 18 charter schools listed in Tarrant County. Many of those schools are expanding, opening multiple campuses and serving thousands of our local kids. Charter schools bring diversity to DFW, meeting a variety of needs. For instance, the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, one of the schools chosen for the Conference’s tours, is a public arts charter school in Fort Worth, Texas founded in 2001 by the Texas Boys Choir, Inc. Its programs include choir, theatre, musical theatre, and instrumental, a variety of visual arts, dance, and music composition. It is also the home of The Texas Boys Choir. At a completely different side of the education spectrum, Fort Worth Can Academy, Premier High School and Winfree Academy Charter Schools each offers a grades 9-12 high school graduation program with accelerated options and social support systems. Tarrant County is home to many public independent school districts and public charter schools that offer local families quality school choice.

In the early years of Texas charter school operations; there was little guidance and even fewer requirements. Charter Schools have become much more regulated and sophisticated in their growth, as have the laws that govern them. Charter Schools and their Governing Boards are required to complete high levels of documented training by certified professionals. The conference offers charter educators, and those interested in operating charter schools the opportunity to receive required training for Business Officers, Board Training, and a Superintendent Training.

TARRANT COUNTY CHARTER SCHOOLS

UPLIFT MERIDIAN PREPARATORY

1801 S BEACH ST FORT WORTH,TX 76105

UPLIFT MIGHTY PREP

3700 MIGHTY MITE DR

FORT WORTH,TX 76119

FORT WORTH CAN ACADEMY

4301 CAMPUS DR STE D FORT WORTH,TX 76119

PRIME PREP ACADEMY

4400 PANOLA AVE FORT WORTH,TX 76103

PINNACLE SCHOOL

5006 JAMES AVE FORT WORTH,TX 76115

EAST FORT WORTH MONTESSORI ACADEMY

501 OAKLAND BLVD FORT WORTH,TX 76103

FORT WORTH ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS

3901 S HULEN ST FORT WORTH,TX 76109

5508 BLACK OAK LN FORT WORTH,TX 76114

NORTH TEXAS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL OF THE ARTS

6025 VILLAGE PKWY EDGECLIFF VILLAGE,TX 76134

HARMONY SCIENCE

5651 W CREEK DR FORT WORTH,TX 76133

8100 S HULEN ST FORT WORTH,TX 76133

PREMIER H S OF FORT WORTH

6411 CAMP BOWIE #B FT WORTH,TX 76116

RIVER OAKS

5508 BLACK OAK LN, STE A FORT WORTH,TX 76114

RICHARD MILBURN ACADEMY

6777 CAMP BOWIE BLVD STE 300 FORT WORTH,TX 76116

WINFREE ACADEMY

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS

6311 BLVD 26 NORTH RICHLAND,TX 76205

CHAPEL HILL ACADEMY

4640 SYCAMORE SCHOOL RD FORT WORTH,TX 76133

ARLINGTON CLASSICS ACADEMY - ARKANSAS CAMPUS

2800 W ARKANSAS LN ARLINGTON,TX 76016

Suggested Resources:

The Examiner: Two Fort Worth Charter Schools

Texas Charter School Association

Texas Education Agency Search by County

Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts

Winfree Academy Charter Schools

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