A new Texas law which becomes effective on September 1 states that if district leaders do not fix their failing schools, the state is prepared to strip them of their authority.
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killee), the primary author of House Bill 1842, said the state is giving leaders the flexibility to confront the issues at hand in the way they see fit, but that the legislature expects to hold them responsible at some point.
Sophia Bollag and Mallory Busch of The Texas Tribune report that Aycock said a whole district would be responsible for turning their schools around. The law has set deadlines for each step in the new reform process and allows the Texas education commissioner to install a board of managers that will replace district leaders who do not reach the established goals.
"They've never done that for academic reasons in the past," said David Anthony, CEO of the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas. "In the past, there hasn't been a definite outcome if we don't turn the school around. [HB] 1842 provides a definite outcome."
When a district has experienced two years of academically unacceptable ratings, the district must come up with reform plans that include input from parents and community members who have a stake in the success of the district's schools, which could also include representatives from local higher education institutions. Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said this was the first time that community input has been required to participate so early in the reform process.
The reform plan must include the school's budget and a description of the academic programs, and the district can consider turning the school into a charter school. After three years of academically unacceptable ratings, the education commissioner can approve plans to fix the school, choose new leadership at the school or district level, or close the school entirely.
After five years, the commissioner must install new management at the district level or close the school. Aycock hopes the law results in fewer school closures and more school reforms, saying, "This is the school improvement bill which hopefully will keep them from closing these schools."
Merrill Hope of Breitbart writes that the Texas House leadership stopped education reform legislation that would have shortened the time to "repurpose" chronically failing schools during the recent 84th Legislature, pushing instead for community schools. Other bills would have shortened the time parents would languish in public schools that were failing from six years to three years, according to the Austin Statesman.
The Austin Statesman blamed Governor Greg Abbott for squashing the legislation when it was, in fact, the House education leadership who blocked the bills. Other bills were introduced with different suggestions for helping the 297 failing public schools in the state, but they failed to garner enough support to be passed.
In House Bill 1891, House leadership pushed for community schools, which are supported by the US Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Community schools are meant to be the hub of the community, with the vision of school as an academic, social, emotional, behavioral, physical health, and mental health center. The schools house early childhood services, after school programs, family involvement, family support, community development, community engagement, adult education, and even counseling.