Austin Goodwill Seeks to Open Charter School to Help Adults Earn High School Diplomas

Woman in classroom raises handGoodwill Industries of Central Texas (Austin) is on the road to opening a charter school aimed at helping people over age 25 earn high school degrees. If the Texas State Board of Education accepts the application, the Excel Center will open its doors in August 2014 at the Goodwill Community Center in Austin.

Modeled after Goodwill’s charter school model in Indianapolis, the Goodwill Education Initiatives Excel Center, the Austin school would aim to serve 300 individuals under 25 in the first year, and 500 in the ensuing years. Currently, government funds cannot be used to help individuals earn high school diplomas once they turn 26, but the Goodwill has submitted legislation and is lobbying for changes to these statutes. The Goodwill plans to lay the foundation with those 25 and younger, and hopes to add older students shortly thereafter.

“We are grateful to our friends in Indianapolis. They have inspired us to bring this successful model to Texas in order to have a real impact on our community and the people we serve,” said Traci Berry, vice president of community engagement at the Austin Goodwill. “Opening the doors of the Excel Center in Austin will be the result of a true collaborative effort.”

Only the lowest-paying positions are available to someone without a high school diploma — an achievement that eludes 19.6 percent of adult Texans. That’s more than 3 million people, what Berry calls “an unacceptable number.”  With the launch of the Excel Center in Austin, the Austin Goodwill would be able to help narrow the gap between the well-educated and the rest, by helping more individuals become educated and successful working adults

“This model of adult learning, aimed at achieving not only a high school diploma, but stackable certificates and life and work readiness skills, is innovative in our state,” Berry said. “Time and time again, we have highlighted the tremendous impact that a quality education and marketable skills has on an individual’s potential for success.”

The Austin Goodwill team is in the midst of completing the charter application, due February 28, 2013. After three more rounds of applications, the charter announcement would happen in November. Since there is a cap on charters of 215 in Texas, 206 of which are already in use, the Austin Goodwill is simultaneously lobbying the state legislature to adjust the cap.

The Texas Tribune and the New York Times covered this story.