On Friday, February 17, the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Public Education met to discuss the overall charter school system in Texas. The hearing was designed to review the operation of charter schools, in general, and provide an opportunity to learn more about the system that now serves approximately 130,000 students across 206 open-enrollment campuses, with an additional 56,000 on the waiting list. Harmony Public Schools is the largest charter school operating system in the state with 36 campuses and 20,000 students.
Harmony had a strong attendance at the hearing, with several witnesses testifying, and numerous additional parents of Harmony students in the audience prepared to provide testimony if necessary.
Among those invited by the committee to testify was David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter School Association.
“Clearly there’s a great demand from parents and students,” Dunn testified, “and there’s also a lot of interest in additional folks coming in to meet the educational needs of those students.”
Dunn also noted that one-fourth of the schools recognized for their efficiency by the state comptroller were charter schools, despite currently educating only three percent of students in the state.
Two audience members criticized charter schools, and Harmony in particular, but they were met with strong support from several of the legislators on the Committee, who noted that the critics had never visited a Harmony school and seemed to base their opinions on unsupported information and speculation. Harmony parents then provided testimony on their personal experience with charter schools, generally praising Harmony for providing a high-quality education and expecting a standard of excellence from faculty, teachers, students and parents.
Many charter and Harmony supporters were on hand to testify at the hearing. Among those testifying was Dr. John Harper, former mayor of Rowlett, Texas, CFO of The Cooper Institute and member of the Harmony Public Schools Advisory Board. Dr. Harper has visited twelve of the Harmony campuses. He shared with the Committee what he has seen in these schools:
“I came away from that experience extremely impressed by the extraordinary results that Harmony Public Schools have consistently achieved all across Texas for more than ten years now! Those academic achievements, especially with previous under-achievers, have been recognized many times by very prestigious groups nationally.”
Harmony officials plan to be a resource to the Committee as they continue to learn about the positive impact that charter schools such as Harmony are having on public education in Texas.