LCSA: This grant has come at a time when the attacks on Harmony Public Schools were in its peak. People attacking Harmony Public Schools and some other top-notch charter schools are doing this together with their own newly-coined jargon: Gulen Charter Schools. Instead of launching separate attacks on all successful charter schools, they combine their sorties under one category which makes the life easy for these anti-charter groups.
The question is how influential are these anti-charter groups? Looks like not much. Considering that Harmony Charter Schools are the recipient of the highest level of federal grant as well as being nominated by the Broad Foundation as one of the candidates of the Most Outstanding Academic Progress among Charters, we see that the recent surge of the anti-charter groups has not succeeded much. People probably see these groups as “some bloggers” let alone being “influential groups”.
Federal grant spurs charter school expansion in Austin
Some of Texas’ most in-demand charter schools will open new Austin campuses in coming years with the help of a federal grant aimed at extending the reach of high-performing charter schools.
To win the competitive grant, the charter school operators had to have a proven record of improving the academic performance of low-income students.
“This is a validation of our model that we’ve built carefully over the past 10 years,” said Soner Tarim , Harmony’s superintendent.
Harmony has 36 campuses across the state, five of which are in the Austin area.
The $5 million grant will allow Harmony to open seven more schools in Texas — including one in Austin — and beef up its science, math and engineering curricula, particularly its robotics program, Tarim said.
Harmony’s new Austin school would open in the fall of 2013 at the earliest. Its location has not been determined.
With its $1 million grant, KIPP-Austin plans to open two new middle schools in East Austin next fall to complement its five existing schools, spokeswoman Evelyn Nazro said. The additional schools will expand to locations away from KIPP’s sprawling facility on FM 969 .
KIPP schools in San Antonio and Houston also received the grant money.
Texas has made it easier for proven, high-performing charter schools to expand operations by streamlining the administrative process.
But the state doesn’t provide the startup money for those new campuses that it gives to nascent charter operations, Nazro said.
“That policy is a barrier to growth for charter schools,” Nazro said. “The federal government is helping resolve that problem by giving us what the state isn’t. It has a transformative ability for high-performing charter schools to grow and replicate.”
Charter schools are privately managed public schools that receive state dollars but are not subject to many of the constraints of traditional public schools. They are intended to function as laboratories of innovation for improving the academic performance of students at risk of failure.
For instance, more than 90 percent of the students at KIPP-Austin are from low-income families, and almost all are minorities.
Nazro said KIPP’s fifth-graders come in far behind their peers across the state. By eighth grade, they are performing on par with wealthy, suburban school districts.
“We have consistently proven that ZIP code does not define destiny,” Nazro said. “The population that we serve is just as capable of learning and going on to higher education as any other population.