Texas officials move to close 6 underperforming charter schools


The Texas Education Agency announced it will revoke six charters in June, pending an appeals process. The Dallas Morning News reported that the schools are American YouthWorks in Austin, Jamie's House Charter School in Houston, Honors Academy in Dallas, Koinoinia Community Learning Academy in Houston, Richard Milburn Academy in suburban Houston and Azleway Charter School in Tyler.

John Dodd, superintendent of Honors Academy in Dallas, which has 775 students on seven state campuses, said he planned to appeal. Honors has had three straight years of poor academic ratings, but Dodd said Honors was working with TEA to improve the situation.

"We're asking TEA to continue to let us do what we're doing, because it's working," Dodd told the newspaper.

Charter schools are privately run with tax dollars, but required to meet certain standards to continue operation. A new law requires TEA to shut down charter schools if they do not meet academic benchmarks for three straight years, the newspaper reported.

"Schools that aren't meeting the needs of kids, whether traditional or charter, ought to be closed down," said David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association.

But officials at the schools targeted say they're doing their best to serve students and don't deserve to be shuttered.

Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks in Austin, takes older students who have dropped out of traditional high schools. YouthWorks' students are an average of 18 years old.

The school missed state financial standards the last three years by not hiring the right managers to oversee its finances, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

"This is not the kind of school they want to close down," said Parc Smith, the schools' CEO, according to the newspaper. "We are working with the folks who weren't making it at any school and we're getting them to graduate in significant numbers."

In East Texas, Azleway Charter School faces possible closure for not meeting academic standards during the 2010-11 school year and financial standards during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.

Gary Duke, CEO of Azleway Inc., told the newspaper that he would also request a review of the state's decision. Duke said many of the school's students have learning disabilities or other issues that make it difficult for them to learn. He acknowledged that the school did not properly monitor its funding in previous years, leading to insolvency, but said Azleway was trying to eventually meet TEA standards.

"It's a very unfortunate situation for the kids because we want to provide them with the best educational system that we can," Duke told the Telegraph.

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