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News Release: Texas Charter Schools Association Testimony on SB 3 (3/17/09)

Posted by Texas Education on March 17, 2009

Prepared Testimony of
David Dunn, Executive Director of the Texas Charter Schools Association
Before the Senate Education Committee regarding SB3
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good Morning Madam Chair and Members of the Committee.   I am David Dunn, the Executive Director of the Texas Charter Schools Association.  As you know, I returned home from the U.S. Department of Education to lead the Texas Charter Schools Association, or TCSA,  about six months ago. TCSA is the leading membership organization of effective charter schools of all types.  We proudly represent over 48,000 students in 251 charter schools across Texas — which equals over one-half of the students currently enrolled in Texas’ open enrollment charter schools.
This is the most exciting time I can remember for charter schools.  The very first school President and Mrs. Obama visited was a charter school.  In his address to Congress last month, and just last week in a major domestic policy speech the President again stressed charter schools as a powerful tool in education reform.  Performance-based accountability is the hallmark of charter schools.  Since the first charter school opened 18 years ago, the research has been crystal clear – we are making notable gains in student achievement serving a diverse population in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
On behalf of our members, I am pleased to testify in favor of Senate Bill 3. The TCSA applauds your work Chairman Shapiro, along with Representative Eissler and the Joint Select Committee on Accountability in addressing the needs of the 21st century workforce and ensuring our entire public school system thrives.  Senate Bill 3 represents a bold effort to improve the state’s accountability system.  TCSA certainly supports the major policy aims of the bill to ensure post-secondary readiness for the state’s high school graduates.

We are particularly pleased with the bill’s effort to create a growth standard in student achievement because a growth standard best depicts the progress students are making each year.  The adoption of a growth standard captures one of the highest policy priorities for charter schools this session. TCSA looks forward to working with members of the committee and your staffs to clearly define the growth standard and its relation to a charter school’s accreditation status.  Specifically, the manner in which the vertical scaling component is folded into the accountability system is very important to charter schools in Texas.

Next, TCSA is pleased to see financial accountability emphasized in this legislation.  As you know, financial accountability standards will be new for charter schools.  Because of this, there may be timing issues for ramping up charter school compliance with these new standards. A phased-in approach for the new financial standards might be most sustainable for charter schools. Whatever financial accountability standards are ultimately adopted for charter schools, our association will certainly provide training and services to help charter schools meet them to demonstrate proper stewardship of the state’s funds.

We have several other observations concerning the bill and its potential impact on the students enrolled in charter schools, but we will save them for later deliberations with you, your staffs and other stakeholders. Today, my aim is to pledge our continued engagement in the process to improve the bill as it seeks to improve the way the state measures educational achievement of charter school students. Thank you for allowing me time, I’m pleased to answer any questions that you might have at this time.

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