September 8, 2020
Tom Torkelson Has Big Plans for San Antonio
Tom Torkelson, who co-founded IDEA Public Schools and led the charter network for two decades before stepping down amidst controversy in April, is now CEO of Choose to Succeed (CTS). CTS is a nonprofit organization that since 2011 has been a driving force and relentless cheerleader for charter school expansion in San Antonio. CTS has helped raise more than $100 million to recruit high-performing charter networks to open schools in the city. About half of the CTS-recruited schools are part of the IDEA network. IDEA, which Torkelson co-founded in the Rio Grande Valley, has a college-going focus and is considered one of the nation’s best charter networks serving disadvantaged students. Other CST-recruited schools  belong to KIPP, BASIS, Great Hearts and other networks. Collectively, they enroll 34,000 students.
Now, as CTS’s CEO, Torkelson’s goal is to get 150,000 San Antonio students into charter schools by 2030. With the region adding almost 300,000 residents in the past decade, and expecting to add about a million more by 2040, Torkelson says feeding charter schools’ enrollment growth will not be a problem. Alia Malik, Former IDEA Leader Wants 150,000 Charter Students in San Antonio by 2030, San Antonio Express News, September, 6, 2020


North Carolina Targets Underserved and Disadvantaged Kids 
The North Carolina State Board of Education has awarded $17.4 million in grants to 34 charter schools to attract and enroll more underserved and disadvantaged students. The awards are part of the state’s “Advancing Charter Collaboration and Excellence for Student Success” (ACCESS) program. One of the goals of ACCESS is to create a “cohort of 160 charter school leaders who can develop and demonstrate best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students.” ACCESS is funded by the federal government as part of a program designed to enable states to expand opportunities for disadvantaged students by opening new high-quality charter schools, and increasing seats and services in existing ones. As of the opening of the 2020-21 school year, there are 200 public charter schools in North Carolina. A.P. Dillon, Dozens of NC Charter Schools Win Grants to Enroll and Support More Underserved Students, North State Journal, September, 7, 2020

Charter School Students Underfunded - Again
Four California charter school networks are moving forward with a lawsuit against the state, on grounds that its education budget unconstitutionally underfunds their students. In June, the legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom froze K-12 funding at last year’s levels, which penalized schools that will see increased enrollment this year. Last week, the legislature restored some funding to those growing charter schools — but not all of it. In the amended budget, the state will fund a charter school on either its projected enrollment or its actual enrollment, whichever is lower. Most charter schools projected their 2020-2021 enrollment last January, before the pandemic forced all schools in the state to close. Charter schools that outperformed traditional district schools during the shutdown are now seeing a surge of new students. In many charter schools, actual enrollment is exceeding projected enrollment, leaving those schools underfunded. The plaintiffs say they will pursue litigation until every student is funded as California’s constitution requires. Kyle Stokes, Charter Schools Will Continue Lawsuit Despite The Legislature Partially Restoring Their Funding, The LAist, September 2, 2020


2020-2021 Challenging Year for First-Time College Enrollment
Researchers say in a normal year, roughly 20 percent of high school seniors accepted to college fail to show up in the fall for their freshman year. Given the stressors of Covid-19, this year more students will suffer from “summer melt,” and like everything else with the pandemic, the impact will be greater in low income and minority communities. In response, many charter school networks are taking extra steps to ensure their 2020 graduates. Northeastern charter network Achievement First created an emergency fund for 2020 alumni struggling with the transition to college, and connected them with older Achievement First alumni already attending the same colleges, to ensure the new freshmen have some support even if it is virtual. The IDEA network is maintaining close contact with its graduates in Texas and Louisiana - helping those “who had a difficult time keeping up with the slew of college enrollment emails without a laptop, who became homeless, who were hospitalized and whose families were forced to pull from their college savings.” IDEA network requires its high schools to report every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning how many of its 2020 graduates don’t yet have their college plans confirmed. Jay Matthews, Charter Schools at War with Pandemic Over Getting Students to College, Washington Post, August 27, 2020

Presidential Politics and High Poverty Students 
During the Democratic convention, charter school officials from states around the country bombarded the Biden campaign with letters protesting the "Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force" education platform. The greatest concern is the policy that suggests local school districts be empowered to give thumbs up or down to charter school funding. Notwithstanding the constitutionality - or practicality - of giving local school boards authority over federal education dollars, officials are urging the Democratic nominee to reconsider. For example, officials with the Michigan Association of Public School Academies wrote, "Charter schools serve a disproportionately high level of students in poverty in our state, particularly Black and Brown students. Half the students in Detroit attend charter schools. Half the students in Flint attend charter schools. If the charter schools in those cities had to close, those students would have no choice but to be forced back into the districts that have failed them for years." The Biden campaign has not publicly responded to the letters.

During the Republican convention, President Trump told 24 million viewers he promised to grow charter schools in a second term, but misrepresented Biden's pledge to ban for-profit charter schools as a pledge to ban all charters. 


Rapper Sean "P Diddy" Combs Opens a Charter School
Making good on his $1 million pledge to open a charter school serving disadvantaged students, Sean Combs, "best known as 'P Diddy'” has launched Capital Preparatory Charter School in the Bronx. Expected to educate up to 200 students between sixth and seventh grade, and later growing to 650 students through 11th grade, the new charter school sits on the former campus of the College of New Rochelle. Although it last week opened remotely due to the pandemic, the school will be “a community rooted in social justice and diversity.” Noting that he came from the same environment as Capital Prep’s students, the famed New York rapper said, “My dream has always been to provide children in communities like the Bronx the high quality education they deserve. We’re not just teaching reading, math and coding. We are grooming future leaders that will change their communities and the world.” Alex Mitchell, P Diddy Opens Co-op City Charter School on Former College Campus, The Bronx Times, September 4, 2020
School Improvement Partnership improves transparency and accountability in the charter school bond market. As continuing disclosure agent for more than 40 schools in six states, we enhance the form and content of secondary market information for charter school bond investors. On behalf of such investors, School Improvement Partnership performs comprehensive evaluations of charter school borrowers in transition - both pre-investment and post-investment. Please view our website or call us at 215.854.6322.
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