“District of Innovation”—worth looking into.

Does your school district have an academic performance rating that is at least “acceptable”? Do the folks in your community like the idea of “local control”? If so, you should explore the possibility of becoming a District of Innovation.

This is a new concept for us in Texas, but has been done in other states. It came to Texas with the adoption of HB 1842 during the 2015 legislative session.  Some have referred to this bill as “charter school lite” because it empowers traditional schools to operate more like charters do—freed up from some of the requirements of state law.

We look for draft rules from the Agency sometime this month. When these are published, we encourage you to take a good look at them. The Agency will give us guidance as to how innovative a District of Innovation can be. For example, can the district exempt itself from Chapter 37—student discipline? What about Chapter 21, regarding teacher contracts?  HB 1842 sets out a few sections of state law that cannot be “innovated” away, such as graduation requirements.  And of course, a state law cannot exempt the district from the application of federal laws, such as IDEA, FERPA and Section 504.

But there is nothing in the language of HB 1842 that takes Chapters 21 of 37 off limits. In fact, the law allows for “any other innovations prescribed by the board of trustees.”

The process of obtaining D of I status is laid out in the law. Suffice it to say that the plan must be widely supported by the board (at least a two-thirds’ vote) and the community and only after a very transparent, open process of developing the plan.

So look for the draft rules, and talk about this in the district. Here at Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle, we are ready to help. Give us a call if you have questions.