TCTA alerted legislators in testimony to the Senate Education Committee on Aug. 3 (testimony starts at 2:23:00 on video) about the fact that many districts of innovation are opting out of state laws setting class size limits in grades K-4.

The committee held the hearing to discuss several interim charges, including one about school district efficiency and productivity, in which they were to “identify any state mandates which hinder student performance, district and campus innovation, and efficiency and productivity overall.” TCTA reminded the committee that by virtue of passing legislation last session establishing innovation districts, which can identify and exempt themselves from education laws that “inhibit the goals of the local (district) innovation plan,” they had already put a mechanism in place to accomplish the interim charge. TCTA noted that, out of the 18 or so districts that had at that time notified the commissioner of their adoption of a local district innovation plan, there were striking similarities in the laws they had identified. Much to our dismay, one of the top-identified laws from which these districts would be exempt was the statutory 22:1 class size limit in grades K-4, including having to notify parents if class size limits are exceeded. 

TCTA strongly opposed the innovation district legislation during the 2015 legislative session. The legislation allows entire school districts with at least an acceptable accountability rating to decide, via their district-level site-based decision-making committees and the school board, to be exempt from major provisions of the Education Code, including teacher rights and benefits, student discipline laws, parent rights and more. Education Code provisions that an innovation district cannot be exempt from are those applicable to open-enrollment charter schools, those related to school district organization and governance, school board powers and duties (including posting of job vacancy notices, school district grievance policies and paperwork reduction provisions), state curriculum and graduation requirements, and academic and financial accountability and sanctions. 

TEA has proposed rules on innovation districts, which TCTA submitted comments and gave testimony about at a TEA hearing, but as of this printing, the rules have not yet been finally adopted.

The meeting also included testimony from various entities that conduct efficiency/productivity analyses of school districts. However, as pointed out by several other witnesses, since the key performance measure used by these entities is student performance on the STAAR test, which many consider a flawed measure, the resulting productivity/efficiency analysis would be flawed as well. School funding was another topic of discussion. Click here for more on the hearing.