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Texas Association of School Boards





A Guide to Texas Public Education

Texas lawmakers file hundreds of bills pertaining to public education each legislative session—legislation ranging from school funding to student discipline, from school choice to school district governance. In an effort to provide school board trustees, legislators, legislative staff, and the media with easily accessible information about issues affecting our public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has developed A Guide to Texas Public Education.

This Guide is structured to serve as a primer on education issues likely to surface during the 83rd Legislative Session and provide basic information about how Texas’s 1,031 public school districts function. There are three main components of the Guide:

• Issue briefs

• Facts and figures about Texas public schools

• A glossary of education-related terms.

TASB will update and supplement the content of this Guide as new issues arise.

Please do not hesitate to contact TASB Governmental Relations with any questions or comments at 512.478.4044 or 800.580.4885.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 





Beginning in spring of 2012, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) system  replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) system as the state’s assessment  program. The STAAR program includes tests in grades 3–8 and high school end‐of‐course (EOC) exams. 

In spring of 2012, students in grades 3–8 took the STAAR tests and ninth graders took the EOC exams for  the first time. High school sophomores, juniors, and seniors took the TAKS tests and will continue to do  so until they graduate.   


A new state accountability system based on the STAAR exams and other performance indicators will be  implemented beginning with campus and district ratings for the 2012–13 school year. The goal of the  new assessment and accountability systems is to ensure that Texas public school students are prepared  for college or the workforce and are nationally and internationally competitive when they graduate from  high school.  


STAAR versus TAKS: The STAAR tests differ from the TAKS tests most significantly in the following ways: 

 STAAR tests are more rigorous, assessing skills in greater depth and level of cognitive complexity,  and will measure a greater range of achievement. 

 Performance standards on the STAAR tests are linked from grade to grade and also to college and  workforce readiness standards. 

 STAAR tests generally have more questions and must be completed within four hours. 

   Each EOC exam covers only the content from that particular course, rather than content from  multiple courses.1 


EOC Subjects Tested: EOC exams are administered in the following four foundation subject areas:  

 English (English I, II, and III, each of which is broken into two exams: writing and reading);  

 Mathematics (Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II);  

 Science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics); and  

 Social Studies (World Geography, World History, and United States History).2   

As explained in further detail below, the number of EOC tests a student is required take depends on the  graduation plan the student is pursuing.3 


Performance Levels: There are three performance levels on the STAAR and EOC exams, and the Texas  Education Agency (TEA) will annually establish scores that equate to each performance level:  

 Level I: Unsatisfactory Performance  

 Level II: Satisfactory Performance (“passing”)  

 Level III: Advanced Performance (“college ready” or ready for an advanced course)   

1 Texas Education Agency, “STAAR Resources,” October 2012. 

2 Texas Education Code (TEC) § 39.023(c).  

3 TEC § 39.025(a).


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

Additionally, for the EOC exams, TEA has established a minimum score, which is below but within a  reasonable range of the Level II (“passing”) score (see dashed line in graphic below), and a cumulative  score for each subject, which is the number of EOC exams administered in that subject multiplied by the  passing score on each. A student must achieve at least the minimum score on an EOC test in order for  that EOC exam to count toward the cumulative score in that subject.4 



The number of questions students must answer correctly to achieve each performance level will increase  incrementally until 2016. But the initial STAAR passing standards are higher than the passing standards for  the TAKS and require students to demonstrate more in‐depth knowledge, critical thinking, and application  skills than did the TAKS tests. The EOC exam passing standards a student must achieve depend on when that  student takes his or her first EOC assessment. If a student took his or her first EOC test in 2012, he or she will  be held to the first set of performance standards for every EOC assessment in that content area.5 


Graduation Requirements: To graduate on the Recommended or Distinguished High School programs,  students must (1) take all 15 EOC tests, (2) earn at least the minimum score on each EOC test, and (3) earn a  cumulative score on the EOC tests in each subject area. However, a student who earns only the minimum  score on each EOC test in a subject area will not achieve the cumulative score for that subject area, as  required for graduation. Students on the Recommended program also must pass the Algebra II and English III  EOC exams. To graduate on the Distinguished program, students must earn the higher “college‐ready” level  on those two EOC tests. Students graduating on the Minimum High School Program must take the EOC  exams only for the courses in which they are enrolled and for which there are EOC exams.6 


15 Percent Rule: State law mandates that school districts adopt a local policy requiring a student’s score  on the EOC exam to count toward 15 percent of the student’s final course grade. Commissioner of  Education Robert Scott delayed implementation of the 15 percent provision during the 2011–12 school  year as part of the transition to the new STAAR testing system. However, starting with the 2012–13  school year, districts will have to implement the 15 percent rule. This is the first time that a student’s  performance on a state assessment is not only a prerequisite for graduation but will also count toward  the student’s grade point average (GPA). The GPA, in turn, affects course‐credit determinations and  class‐rank calculations, which traditionally have been based on local district policy.7 


Accelerated Instruction and Retests: Students who fail the fifth‐ or eighth‐grade STAAR must retake  that exam. If a student does not meet the minimum score on an EOC assessment, the student must  retake the assessment. In addition, students may retake an EOC exam for any reason, and districts are 

required to provide accelerated instruction to any student who fails a STAAR exam.8   

4 TEC § 39.025. 

5 Texas Education Agency, “House Bill 3 Transition Plan,” October 2010. 

6 TEC § 39.025(a). 

7 TEC § 28.014(c). 

8 TEC § 39.025(b), (b‐1).


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

Testing Calendar: During the 2012–13 school year:9  

Month  Day  Test  Scores released 

December  2012  1  SAT (and all subject tests)*  

  3–6  English I, II, and III EOC exams (Reading and Writing) by January 16, 2013

  3–14  All other EOC exams by January 16, 2013

January 2013  15  Last day student could opt in to IB exam**

  16  SAT (and most subject tests)



NAEP Reading and Math (random sample of students  in  grades 4 and 7) 

March  8 

  9  SAT  

April  1–5  STAAR Writing (grades 4 and 7),  Reading (grades 5 and 8),   Math (grades 5 and 8),  

English I, II, and III EOC exams (Reading and Writing) 

by May 22, 2013;

by April 22, 2013;  

by April 22, 2013; and  by June 7, 2013 

  19  Last deadline for ordering AP exams

  23–25  STAAR Math and Reading (grades 3–5 and 6–7),  Science (grades 5 and 8), and Social Studies (grade 8) 

by May 22, 2013 May  2‐22  International Baccalaureate (IB)

  4  SAT (and many subject tests)

  6‐ 10, 


Advanced Placement (AP)***

  6–17  EOC exams in Math, Science, and Social Studies by June 7, 2013    14–17  Retests for Math and Reading (grades 5 and 8)  by June 3, 2013  June  25–26  Retests for Math and Reading (grades 5 and 8) by July 12, 2013 July  8–11  English I, II, and III EOC exams (Reading and Writing)  by August 16, 2013   8–19  EOC exams in Math, Science, and Social Studies by August 16, 2013

* Students may take up to three SAT subject tests on a single test date. 

** Students must be in their junior or senior year of high school in order to take IB courses. Very few IB tests align  with the end‐of‐course assessed subjects.10 Further, although April 15 is the final date for schools to order IB  exams, January 15 is the deadline for a student to register to take an IB exam in May. 

*** Relatively few AP tested subjects align with the end‐of‐course assessed subjects.11   

83rd Legislative Session  

Some parents and educators are expressing their belief that, while they support a rigorous 

accountability system, the STAAR assessment system is too onerous and complex. They argue that the  system impedes the instructional process and imposes too many hurdles to high school graduation. 

Some members of the business community disagree. They believe that any changes will “water down” 

the system and leave high school graduates ill‐prepared for post‐secondary success. During the 83rd  legislative session, legislators will be called upon to re‐examine several aspects of the current 

assessment system, including: the 15 percent rule, the cumulative score requirement, the feasibility of  allowing certain tests and the successful completion of a dual‐credit course to substitute for the EOC  exams in the same subject, and reducing the number of EOC exams required for graduation. 

9Texas Education Agency, “Testing Calendars,” September 2012. The College Board, “US SAT Registration: Dates and Deadlines,” 

2012. The College Board, “2013 AP Exam Schedule,” 2012. International Baccalaureate, “IB Diploma Programme: Examination  Schedule,” 2012. 

10 International Baccalaureate, “IB Diploma Programme: subject Choices,” 2012.

11 The College Board, “AP Courses & Exams,” 2012. 


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 


The Impact of a High School Diploma 


Texans have long recognized the central role education plays in prosperity, economic development, and  personal fulfillment. Education’s importance has only grown as our economy transitions from manufacturing  to services.  Additionally, the competitive environment is no longer regional but international in scope. Public  education expenditures are easy to identify, but the cost of achieving the state’s desired performance  outcomes is not easy to determine. In light of recent cuts to education, this information is particularly  important. Below is summarized research of the personal, governmental, and economic impact of education.   


Income Potential 

According to the 2011 American Community Survey, for the adult population over the age of 25, the  median earnings of a high school graduate were $26,699, which is a substantial increase over the 

$18,794 median earnings of those who did not complete high school. This gap widens when compared  to one who completes some college or obtains an associate’s degree ($32,321), completes college  ($48,309), or completes post‐graduate studies ($64,322).1   


Other Quality‐of‐Life Measures Significantly Impacted by High School Graduation 

The lifetime‐earnings (ages 25–64) gap between those with only a high school diploma and those who  dropped out is $331,000.2 The gap between a high school dropout and someone who obtains a  professional degree increases to $2.7 million. Clearly, such gaps will impact options, choices, and even  an individual’s lifestyle. For instance: 

 2011 unemployment rate: 14 percent for high school dropout versus 9.4 percent for high school  graduate.3 

 Pension plan participation: 30 percent for high school dropout versus 55 percent for high school  graduate.4 

 Poverty: 26 percent of high school dropouts live in households at or below the poverty level  while only 12 percent of high school graduates live in similar households.5 

 Life expectancy: High school graduates live about 9.2 years longer than high school dropouts.6 


Other positive relationships associated with earning a high school diploma include reduced tobacco  usage rates, increased exercise rates, increased job satisfaction, and increased chances of raising  children ready for school.  


Benefits Accruing to Government 

Increased individual earnings generate increased government revenue through income, sales, and other tax  revenues. The government also spends less on social services for individuals who attain a high school diploma. 

Numerous studies exist detailing tax benefits, reduction in Medicaid eligibility, reduction in incarceration 

1 U.S. Census Bureau, “American Community Survey,” 2011. 

2 Anthony P. Carnevale, et al., “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings,” Georgetown University Center  on Education and the Workforce, August 2011. 

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Current Population Survey,” March 2012. 

4 College Board, “Education Pays, 2010: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society,” 2010. 

5 Ibid. 

6 Mitchell D. Wong, et al., “Contribution of Major Diseases to Disparities in Mortality,” New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 

347, No. 20 (November 2002): 1585. 


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

rates, and reductions in other government programs with increasing education.7 In 2009, a Rand Corporation  study quantified the net government benefit of individuals receiving a high school diploma.8  


High School Dropouts: A Lost Opportunity for the Texas Economy 

In Texas, the longitudinal dropout rate from grade 9 through grade 12 has declined from 8.8 percent (2006  graduating class) to 7.3 percent for the 2010 graduating class. Still, a 7.3 percent dropout rate means that  135,100 students left before receiving their diploma. Half the number of 2010 Texas dropouts would yield: 

 $593 million in increased earnings, 

 $470 million in increased spending, 

 $786 million in increased home sales, 

 $61 million in increased auto sales, 

 3,950 new jobs, 

 $715 million in increased gross state product, and  

 $43 million in increased state tax revenue.9  


83rd Legislative Session 

Recognizing the connection between high school graduation and economic development, past  legislatures invested in programs to reduce the number of high school dropouts. In 2006, the state  created the high school allotment that provided $335 million annually for dropout prevention and  college readiness. During the 2010–11 biennium, Texas allocated approximately $500 million in state  and federal funding for dropout prevention and recovery initiatives.  Since then, however, the state has  eliminated nearly all grants related to dropout prevention in addition to cutting $4 billion in general  school funding. The school finance litigation has highlighted the connection between spending on public  education and academic outcomes. The task before the 83rd Legislature will be to determine how to  allocate limited state resources for public education in a way that keeps students in school and prepares  them for post‐secondary success. 

7 Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Education and Correctional Populations,” January 2003. 

8 Stephen Carroll and Emre Erkut, “The Benefits to Taxpayers from Students Educational Attainment,” Rand Corporation, 2009. 

9 Alliance for Excellent Education, “The Economic Benefits of Helping High School Dropouts Earn Both High School Diplomas and  College Degrees (Texas),” December 2011. 

Benefits to Taxpayers from Increasing Educational Attainment from High School Dropout to High School  Graduate, US‐Born Men and Women (2002 dollars, figures in thousands) 


Increased  Tax  Payments 

Reduced Social  Program  Spending 

Reduced  Incarceration 


Total Benefit (Sum  of 1st three 


Cost of Providing   Additional  Education 

Net  Benefit  Whites 

Men  $54  $22  $13  $89  ($15)  $74 

Women  $50  $41  $2 $93 ($15)  $78


Men  $50  $37  $1 $88 ($15)  $73

Women  $52  $49  $0 $101 ($15)  $86


Men  $40  $38  $123 $201 ($15)  $186

Women  $38  $64  $10 $112 ($15)  $97


Men  $46  $26  $35 $107 ($15)  $92

   Women  $44  $50  $4 $98 ($15)  $83


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved.

Career and Technical Education


In 2005, Texas began reorganizing the state’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program to align with the national model of 16 career clusters.1 All school districts with at least one high school must offer a minimum of one CTE coherent sequence2 from at least three of the 16 career clusters.3 School districts recognize that offering CTE courses is crucial for keeping many students engaged in high school and preparing them for success when they graduate. However, the state’s graduation requirements, districts’ lack of access to technology and properly equipped facilities, and scarcity of CTE teachers with the necessary academic degrees are impeding districts from offering and students from completing more CTE courses.

Graduation Requirements: Substituting CTE Courses for Math or Science Credits

Since 2006, Texas law has required students participating in the Recommended or Distinguished High School Graduation programs to complete four years each of math, science, English, and social studies in order to graduate from high school, commonly referred to as the “4x4.” The 4x4 curricular requirements restricted the number of elective credits available within the Recommended and Distinguished

programs. Because CTE courses only qualified for elective credit, the 4x4 requirements created a significant challenge for students attempting to complete a CTE course sequence in high school.

To address that problem, in 2009, the Legislature expanded (from 24 to 26) the number of credits available in the Recommended and Distinguished graduation programs.4 Students also were permitted to substitute a CTE course for math or science credit if certain conditions were met.5 However, few CTE courses could substitute for math or science credit under those criteria.

In 2011, the Texas Legislature addressed the problem again, this time allowing applied science,

technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses offered as part of a district’s CTE curriculum to be substituted for math credit under the 4x4 if the student (1) has completed Algebra I and geometry and (2) takes the applied course concurrently with Algebra II. Similarly, applied STEM courses offered as part of a district’s CTE curriculum can qualify for science credit if the student (1) has completed biology and chemistry and (2) takes the applied course at least concurrently with physics. To ensure that CTE courses are rigorous, the Legislature mandated that applied STEM courses must also (a) qualify as dual- credit courses or count toward college credit and (b) must cover the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) of the course being substituted. Using these new criteria, the State Board of Education determines which applied STEM courses qualify for math or science credit under the 4x4.

The state’s default graduation plan is the Recommended Plan, depicted below. As the table shows, the statutory prerequisites to substituting a CTE course for academic credit effectively mean that students may only substitute CTE courses for 4x4 math or science credit during their junior or, more likely, senior

1 The career clusters encompass all careers organized around common elements.

2 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) § 74.3(b)(2)(G).

3 A sequence of two or more CTE courses for three or more credits.

4 Texas Education Code (TEC) § 28.025.

5The student must have completed Algebra II or Physics; the CTE course had to be a college-credit course or a prerequisite to a college-credit course; and the CTE course had to cover all TEKS required for the advanced math/science course it replaces.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved.

years of high school. This precludes many students from completing a CTE course sequence prior to high school graduation.

English 1 English 2 English 3 English 4

Algebra 1 Geometry Algebra 2 4th year math

Biology Chemistry Physics 4th year science

World History World Geography US History Government/Economics

Foreign Language 1 Foreign Language 2 Physical Education Fine Art

Speech Elective Elective Elective Elective

Elective Elective

Theoretically, students may take five and one-half elective courses within the Recommended Plan.

However, many school districts maintain a health course as a local graduation requirement,6 thus displacing one-half of the available elective credits. Participation in athletics, band, cheerleading, and/or drill team also consumes elective credits. Moreover, the Distinguished Graduation Plan requires three (instead of two) years of foreign language, which displaces one of the elective credits shown above.

Teacher Certification

State and federal teacher certification requirements often make it difficult for districts, especially small, rural districts, to find qualified teachers to teach CTE courses. Any secondary CTE teacher who teaches a CTE course that satisfies a core academic graduation requirement must be “highly qualified” as defined by federal law. To be “highly qualified,” a teacher must pass a state test in the subject, have a bachelor’s degree or coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major in the academic subject being taught, or have teaching experience in the academic subject or in a closely related field. For example, a registered nurse (RN) is eligible to teach health occupations courses or licensed vocational nursing (LVN) courses at a community college. However, in order to teach those courses on a high school campus, the RN must have a bachelor’s degree in health science technology, which requires having an associate certification in a medical field and two years of experience in that field. Relatively few CTE teachers possess the academic credentials required to teach a CTE course for academic credit.


The availability of technology and properly equipped facilities are two more challenges that impede school districts from offering more CTE courses. In recognition of the fact that CTE courses are more expensive than traditional courses to provide, school districts receive increased funding for students in grades nine–12 who are enrolled in an approved CTE course and for students with disabilities enrolled in a CTE program beginning in seventh grade.7 Districts are entitled to an additional $50 for each CTE student enrolled in (1) two or more advanced CTE courses for a total of three or more credits or (2) an advanced tech-prep program.8 However, these additional funds are often insufficient to cover the cost of equipment and special facilities required for CTE courses.

83rd Legislative Session

Given the business and education community’s shared interest in making CTE courses accessible to more students, it is likely that the issues of CTE course substitution, regional collaborative efforts, and funding for CTE courses will resurface during the 83rd Legislative Session.

6 The Texas Legislature removed a one-half credit health course from the state graduation requirements in 2009.

7 The amount of the CTE funding allotment is determined by multiplying the district’s adjusted basic allotment by a funding weight of 1.35 times the number of full-time-equivalent students in average daily attendance enrolled in an eligible CTE course (TEC § 42.154).

8 TEC § 42.154.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 


School‐Based Law Enforcement 



Texas school districts are committed to protecting the safety of students, staff, and visitors on district  property and may choose from a variety of security options. Those options typically include establishing  a school district police department, entering into an agreement with local law enforcement for the use  of school resource officers, or relying on local law enforcement to respond just as they would in any  other situation that may arise in the community.    


District Police Departments 

Texas law authorizes a school district’s board of trustees to employ security personnel and commission  peace officers to serve its schools and carry out the provisions set in Texas law. In establishing a school  district police department, school boards must adopt policies and procedures governing the 

department.1 According to the Texas School District Police Chiefs’ Association, as of the 2011–12 school  year, approximately 175 school boards had adopted local policies authorizing a district police 



When establishing a school district police department, a school board must determine the jurisdiction of  its commissioned peace officers. The Texas Education Code allows such jurisdiction to include all 

territory in the boundaries of a district and all property outside of the boundaries of a district that is  owned, leased, rented by, or otherwise under the control of the district. Within this jurisdiction, a peace  officer has the powers, privileges, and immunities of peace officers; may enforce all laws, including  municipal ordinances, county ordinances, and state laws; and may take a juvenile into custody in  accordance with Chapter 52 of the Texas Family Code.2   


The duties of school district police officers typically include:  

 investigating offenses;  

 educating, mentoring, and counseling students;  

 providing assistance to school district administrators on safety and security issues; and 

 training district students, staff, and parents on crime‐prevention issues. 


If a district allows officers to perform off‐duty law enforcement activities, it must be authorized in  writing.3  


School districts choose to establish police departments for a variety of reasons. Districts located in  multiple jurisdictions report quicker response times because law enforcement agencies are clear on  which agency should be the first responder. Hence, they cite safety as the primary motive for creating a  district police department. School district police are specially trained to respond to incidents involving  students while other law enforcement officers are not. Districts report that having their own specially  trained police departments has resulted in fewer disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) 

1 Texas Education Code (TEC) § 37.081. 

2 TEC § 37.081. 

3 TEC § 37.081(e).


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

placements. Some districts report cost savings as their main reason for establishing a police department,  as district police— not contract security services— serve as security for after‐hours events.  


School Resource Officers 

As an alternative to establishing a district police department to meet safety and security needs, school  districts have the option to contract with a local police or sheriff’s department to have school resource  officers (SRO) assigned to the district.4 The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 defines “school  resource officer” as a career law enforcement officer, with sworn authority, deployed in community‐

oriented policing and assigned by the employing police department to a local educational agency (i.e., a  school district) to work in collaboration with schools and community‐based organizations to:  

(1)  educate students in crime and illegal drug use prevention and safety; 

(2)  develop or expand community justice initiatives for students; and 

(3)  train students in conflict resolution, restorative justice, and crime and illegal drug use  awareness.5 


The National Association of School Resource Officers similarly defines the role of an SRO as a law  enforcement officer, educator, and counselor. An agreement or memoranda of understanding between  a school district and law enforcement agency governs assignments of SROs to districts, including the  terms of payment by the district to the law enforcement agency and duties of SROs. While SROs are  based in schools and work directly with students and school administrators, they remain employees of  the commissioning city or county.  


School districts typically decide to contract with the police department or sheriff’s office for school  resource officers because these officers are specially trained to respond to incidents involving students. 

Districts also report that having specially trained resource officers helps reduce the number of DAEP  placements and provides time and cost efficiencies.  


Local Law Enforcement Response 

School districts also have the option of relying on local law enforcement personnel with or without a  formal arrangement. School districts tend to prefer this model if local law enforcement is promptly  available in emergency situations and is located in close proximity to district property. It is generally the  least expensive model. However, responding officers are not specially trained to deal with situations  involving students. 



There is no single best solution to ensuring law and order in public schools. Texas law recognizes that  each school district is unique in geographic size, resources, student population, and needs. Hence,  school boards are vested with the authority to design policy that meets the law enforcement needs of  district students and staff and the local community.

4 Tex. Occupational Code § 1701.601. 

5 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. § 7161(11) (2008). See also Tex. Occupational Code § 1701.601.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 


School Start Date 


For more than two decades, the Texas Legislature and school districts have been wrestling over the  authority to set the school year calendar. School districts want to start early in August in order to  maximize the number of instructional days available before the state assessments are administered in  December, March, and May. The tourism industry wants to postpone the start of school until after Labor  Day in order to maximize summer tourism and the availability of a high school labor force during the  summer months.    


Passed in 2006, current law prohibits school districts from starting school before the fourth Monday in  August, unless they operate on a year‐round basis. In 2011, the Legislature created a narrow exception,  allowing certain campuses in Houston ISD that are undergoing comprehensive reform and serve a  majority of economically disadvantaged students to start on or after the first Monday in August.1   


In 1984, House Bill 72 prohibited Texas schools from starting before September 1. Six years later, the  Legislature repealed the uniform school start date and allowed school boards to establish a local school  start date as long as the required number of instructional days were preserved.2  


In 1995, the Legislature substantially revised the laws governing public education but preserved school  board control over the school start date. In 1997 and again in 1999, legislation to establish a September  1 uniform school start was filed but did not pass. 


In short, between 1990 and 2001, school districts determined when school would start and end. Most  schools started in early to mid‐August.  


The tourism industry continued to argue for a uniform, post–Labor Day school start date. In 2001, the  Legislature prohibited schools from starting earlier than the third week of August but allowed districts to  apply to the commissioner of education for a waiver upon meeting certain public notice and hearing  requirements. Contending that the waiver provision had rendered the uniform start date meaningless,  in 2006, the Legislature prohibited Texas schools from starting before the fourth Monday in August,  unless the district operates a year‐round school system, and eliminated waivers. 


Challenges Posed by the Uniform School Start Date  

Texas school districts must provide 180 instructional days per school year. Staff development and  holidays (not including winter break) account for 20 school days during a typical school year. School  boards must juggle those legal requirements along with the state’s instructional mandates and local  communities’ demands to develop a school calendar that maximizes the amount of instructional time  available for students.  


1 Texas Education Code (TEC) § 25.0811.  

2 TEC § 25.081 requires districts to provide at least 180 instructional days per school year, except under certain prescribed  circumstances, such as a year‐round school year or when the education commissioner reduces the number of required  instructional days due to a disaster that causes schools to close.  


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

Starting school in late August makes it difficult to achieve fall and spring semesters of roughly equal  length, which is academically optimal. To achieve this, school boards typically are forced to shorten the  Thanksgiving and/or Christmas break or end the fall semester in January, after the winter break. None of  those choices increase the amount of meaningful instructional time for the following reasons: 


 Reducing or eliminating Thanksgiving or Christmas break interrupts family vacations and are  thus not acceptable choices to many parents. . 

 Alternatively, ending the fall semester in January reduces the number of instructional days  available during the spring semester. This disadvantages students who take a one‐semester  course in spring, as they have fewer days of instruction before their end‐of‐course test. It also  disadvantages students enrolled in a two‐semester course, as the more rigorous part of the  course is presented during the spring semester.    


Postponing the state testing dates until later in May to provide more instructional days is not a viable  alternative. The Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam schedules are set nationally. 

Further, the Texas Education Agency has little flexibility in the state assessment testing dates because of  subsequent statutory deadlines that are dependent upon students’ results on those tests.  


State law requires districts to provide remedial instruction and multiple retesting opportunities for  students who do not pass the state assessments. Accommodating those mandates within a school year  that begins in late August is generally not possible, thus forcing districts to provide summer school. 

Districts receive no state funding for summer school.   


The current uniform school start date creates a misalignment between school district calendars and the  calendars of the local community colleges and universities where students and teachers enroll in  summer and dual‐credit courses. 


83rd Legislative Session 

Whether school boards or the tourism industry should control when school starts is a perennial debate.  

However, the new state assessment and accountability laws will make it necessary once again for the  Legislature to consider the positive and negative effects of the late August uniform school start date. 


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 


Instructional Materials and Technology Purchasing 


For years, policymakers attempted to revise the state’s instructional materials purchasing system to  introduce greater price competition among publishers and incent districts to purchase materials more  cost effectively. Those efforts culminated with the passage of Senate Bill 6 (SB 6)1 in 2011.   



SB 6 requires the State Board of Education (SBOE) to set aside 50 percent of the annual distribution from  the Permanent School Fund to fund the new state Instructional Materials Fund, subject to the Texas  Legislature appropriating the funds for that purpose. From the state Instructional Materials Fund, the  education commissioner must annually allocate to each school district, open‐enrollment charter school,  and juvenile justice alternative education center (JJAEP) (collectively referred to as “districts” for  purposes of this paper) an Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA). The size of a district’s IMA is based  on its prior year student enrollment. Districts received a total of $158 per student in IMA funds for the  2011–12 and 2012–13 school years.  


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) maintains an IMA account for each district, charter school, and JJAEP. 

The district’s IMA account is reduced by the cost of each purchase. Unspent funds in a district’s IMA  account roll forward from year to year. 


Permissible Uses 

Districts may use their IMA to purchase instructional materials, technology that directly supports  classroom instruction, and certain types of technology services. “Instructional materials” is defined  broadly to include both textbooks and online content. Since districts can use the IMA to purchase both  content and technology, SB 6 eliminated the stand‐alone $30 per‐student technology allotment.   


Districts may use the IMA to purchase either state‐adopted instructional materials or materials that  have not gone through the state adoption process, commonly referred to as “nonadopted” materials. 

The SBOE must adopt a list of instructional materials for each grade and subject. The “state‐adopted list” 

includes instructional materials that publishers submit for state adoption that (1) meet the SBOE’s  physical specifications for printed materials; (2) are free of factual errors; and (3) cover at least 50  percent of the state’s learning standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), for the  applicable grade and subject. In addition to the SBOE’s list, the commissioner must maintain a list of  electronic instructional materials. 


Districts also may use the IMA to purchase technology necessary to support the use of instructional  materials and technology services related to student learning, including training for educators in the  appropriate use of instructional materials and salaries of employees who provide IT support. However,  SB 6 specifies that for the 2011–12 and 2012–13 school years, districts must use the IMA first to  purchase instructional materials that prepare students to pass the new State of Texas Assessments of 

1 Texas Education Code, Chapter 31. 


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests and, in subsequent years, must prioritize purchases of instructional  materials that cover the TEKS for all required courses.  


Annual Certification  

The flexibility afforded by SB 6 is accompanied by additional accountability. Each school board president  and superintendent is required to certify annually to the education commissioner and the SBOE that the  district has provided each student with instructional materials that cover 100 percent of the TEKS for  each grade and subject in the required curriculum (except physical education). In fact, a district may not  purchase instructional materials for the next school year until the commissioner of education has  received this annual certification.  


Selling Surplus 

One of the most significant changes brought about by SB 6 is that this new law gives districts property  rights in or ownership of the district’s instructional materials and technology. As a result, districts may  sell surplus instructional materials and technology, though licensing agreements may limit a district’s  ability to sell online instructional materials. Districts also now bear responsibility for insuring or  replacing lost, damaged, or “worn out” instructional materials and technology.  


Competitive Procurement Laws 

SB 6 decentralized the purchasing of instructional materials and technology. In the past, the state’s  competitive procurement provisions, which apply to most local government purchasing, did not apply to  the purchase of textbooks because the state purchased the books on behalf of school districts. Under SB  6, the state still purchases state‐adopted instructional materials on behalf of a district, but districts  themselves purchase nonadopted materials directly from the vendor.  


For those reasons, the state’s competitive procurement provisions do not apply to newly state‐adopted  instructional materials or technology on the commissioner’s list. However, nonadopted instructional  materials and technology are subject to the state competitive procurement laws. This means that if a  district intends to purchase nonadopted instructional materials or technology valued at $50,000 or more  in the aggregate for a 12‐month period, those purchases must be made using one of the seven 

competitive procurement methods listed in the Texas Education Code § 44.031, unless the products are  covered by the “sole‐source” exception. A product is covered by the sole‐source exception for only as  long as it is available from one vendor. With districts now able to sell their surplus materials, the sole‐

source exception provides very time‐limited protection (essentially, only for the first year of an  instructional material’s availability) against the requirement to competitively purchase instructional  materials, which is a significant change.  


83rd Legislative Session 

SB 6 changed the way Texas school districts purchase instructional materials and technology in many  important respects. The new law provides districts with far more flexibility in using state funds for these  purchases but also imposes greater accountability. Each biennium, the Legislature has to appropriate  funding for the Instructional Materials Fund. In so doing, it is likely that the Legislature may review  implementation challenges that may have arisen over this first biennium since SB 6 was passed. 


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved.

Public School Choice


“School Choice” is a term used to describe a wide array of programs aimed at giving parents the option to choose the schools their children will attend at taxpayer expense. State and federal laws already give Texas students choices among public schools. Students in Texas may choose to attend a public school outside of their attendance zone by: exercising inter- and intradistrict transfer options, attending a magnet school or program, or enrolling in a charter school.

School Choice Options Currently Available in Texas

Intradistrict Transfers: Texas school boards may adopt intradistrict transfer policies that allow students to transfer between schools within the same district.1 Nearly all of the approximately 475 multicampus districts in Texas have adopted intradistrict transfer policies. Many multicampus districts by policy or practice also provide an “open-enrollment” period during the school year when students may enroll in any school within their resident district on a “space-available” basis.

Interdistrict Transfers: Additionally, approximately 1,000 districts have adopted interdistrict transfer policies, allowing a student to transfer to another school district.

Special Circumstance Inter- and Intradistrict Transfers:

• A student who was the victim of “bullying,” 2 a violent crime,3 or a sexual assault by another student4

• A student who resides in the same household as a student with disabilities who has been assigned to a campus other than the student’s resident campus for special education services has the right to transfer to the same campus as the special education student.

has the right to transfer to another class or school in the same or in another district.


• Parents may request the transfer of multiple birth siblings to the same or separate classrooms on the same campus.


• Students attending a “low-performing” school are eligible to attend a higher performing school in the same district or in another district under the Public Education Grant (PEG) program. A district is not required to accept a PEG transfer student but may not discriminate against PEG applicants for impermissible reasons.7

• Similarly, the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) provides that a student in a school that does not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years is eligible to transfer to a higher-performing school in the same district or in another district. The school district of origin must provide or pay for transportation for the NCLB transfer students.


• Students who attend a “persistently dangerous” school also are entitled to transfer under NCLB.


1 Texas Education Code (TEC) § 25.031.

2 TEC § 25.0341.

3 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. 7912.

4 TEC § 25.0341.

5 TEC § 25.0343.

6 TEC § 25.043.

7 TEC § 29.201–.203.

8 NCLB, Title I, § 1116(b)(E).

9 NCLB, Title IX, § 9532.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved.

Magnet Schools: Magnet schools and magnet programs are another school-choice option available in Texas. School boards may approve the creation of a magnet school/program in the district.10 Magnet schools generally have a particular pedagogical focus, like art or technology, or follow a different structural organization, such as a Montessori magnet school. Magnet schools enroll students from throughout a school district through an application process.

Charter Schools: Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are subject to fewer state regulations than traditional public and magnet schools. In 1995, the Texas Legislature authorized the formation of campus and program charters, open-enrollment charters, and home-rule school districts. Each is described below.

• Home-Rule School District Charter: Texas’s charter school law includes provisions that permit an entire school district to convert to a home-rule school district via a charter. A home-rule school district charter may be adopted if approved by a majority vote in an election in which at least 25 percent of the district’s registered voters participate.11

• Campus Charter Schools and Charter Programs: School districts or home-rule school districts may operate their own charter schools or charter programs by converting an existing campus or by creating an entirely new charter campus.

No Texas district has sought home-rule conversion. (See also “Home-Rule School Districts,” Issue Brief.)

o Governance: In the case of campus or program charters, the charter is a contract

between the school board and the charter applicants specifying, among other things, the campus’s educational program, governing structure, and conditions under which the charter may be revoked.12 Campus charter schools and programs are exempt from many state regulations, including state teacher certification and contract laws, instructional time mandates, and academic program requirements.13 Additionally, the school board may exempt a campus or program charter from board policies and district regulations.

However, campus charter schools and programs remain the legal responsibility of the school board and are funded like traditional school district campuses.14

o Conversion Process: In order for a district to convert an existing campus into a charter campus, a majority of the school’s teachers and the parents of a majority of students attending the school must sign a petition requesting conversion. Notably, the petition does not require the principal’s signature, nor does conversion require the principal’s approval. The petition must be presented to the school board, which may not arbitrarily deny the request.


o Staffing: If a district chooses to open an entirely new charter campus within the district’s boundaries, the school may be operated by district staff or by an external entity that provides educational services. The campus charter may be housed in district facilities or at another facility located within the district. However, teachers and students must

expressly agree to be assigned to the charter school.


o Program Charters: Program charters are independent educational programs that operate within a larger school (i.e., a school within a school). The school board creates its own charter application requirements and oversees the authorization process. During the

10 19 TAC 74.27.

11 TEC § 12.021–.022.

12 TEC § 12.059.

13 TEC § 12.056–.057.

14 TEC § 12.057–.059.

15 TEC § 12.051–.065.

16 TEC § 12.0521.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved.

2012–13 school year, 74 campus charter schools operated in 15 Texas districts; however, 45 percent of them were located in the Houston Independent School District.

• Open-Enrollment Charter Schools: Open-enrollment charter schools are new public schools created by “eligible entities,” such as nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher learning, and local government groups.17 Open-enrollment charters are authorized by the State Board of Education (SBOE) and are valid for the amount of time specified in the charter approved by the SBOE.18

o Governance: Open-enrollment charter schools are governed by a board of directors or board of trustees in accordance with the governance structure specified in the charter.19 The governing board retains legal responsibility for the management, operation, and accountability of the school20 and is permitted to contract for school management and instructional services from for-profit educational vendors.21 Charter holders may operate multiple charter campuses under the same charter if the expansion is approved by the commissioner of education.22 Some Texas charter schools operate multiple campuses in a particular city or region of the state, while others operate statewide networks of charter campuses. Initially, the number of open-enrollment charter schools was limited to 20, but the Texas Legislature increased the cap to 100 in 1997 and to 215 in 2001.23 University and community college charter schools do not count against the cap on the number of open-enrollment charters.24

o Management: Open-enrollment charter schools may enroll students from an area defined in the contract as approved by the SBOE. Operators must provide transportation to the same extent as school districts and cannot charge tuition, but they may charge fees.

During the 2012–13 school year, 207 open-enrollment charter holders operated 561 open-enrollment charter campuses in the state.


Over time, the Texas Legislature and the Texas Education Agency have increased state regulation of open-enrollment charter schools,26

o Funding: Open-enrollment charter schools do not have the authority to impose taxes.

which now are subject to the same academic and financial accountability provisions applicable to school districts, though fewer indicators typically apply to charter schools because of their smaller size.


They receive maintenance and operations funding from the state based on the statewide average maintenance and operations expenditure for school districts. Charter schools are eligible for state facilities funding through the New Instructional Facilities Allotment, Foundation School Credit Enhancement, and Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee programs. They also are eligible for federal funding, including federal start-up grants, special education funding, and Title 1 funding for disadvantaged students.

17 TEC § 12.101.

18 TEC § 12.111.

19 TEC § 12.101–.102.

20 TEC § 12.121.

21 TEC § 12.125.

22 19 TAC Chapter 100.

23 TEC § 12.101.

24 TEC § 12.156.

25 TEC § 12.108–.1101.

26 From 1996 to August 31, 2012, 47 charters were voluntarily surrendered, 21 surrendered after enforcement, and 27 were revoked or nonrenewed.

27 TEC § 12.102.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved.

• College or University Charter Schools: In 2001, the Texas Legislature authorized the creation of university charter schools. A university charter school is an open-enrollment charter school operating on a university campus or in the same county in which a university campus is located.28 In 2009, the Legislature similarly authorized community colleges to operate open-enrollment charter schools. College or university charters are largely subject to the same laws as open- enrollment charter schools but must be supervised by a university/college faculty member with expertise in educational matters. Additionally, the charter school’s financial operations must be overseen by the college or university business office.29 Like open-enrollment charters, college and university charter schools are able to operate multiple campuses. Three universities operated 19 charter school campuses during the 2012–13 school year.

83rd Legislative Session

As in recent sessions, the 83rd Legislature will likely consider legislation regarding the expansion, accountability, and funding for facilities of open-enrollment charter schools.

28 TEC § 12.152.

29 TEC § 12.154.


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 


Vouchers and Taxpayer Savings Grants   

Publicly funded vouchers that would allow students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense are  currently not available in Texas, though legislation attempting to create a voucher program in Texas has  been introduced and defeated during the past several legislative sessions.   



Throughout the last decade, Texas legislators filed bills proposing to create myriad voucher programs. 

Some bills would have made any Texas student eligible for a voucher; others proposed a “pilot” program  of limited duration for targeted districts or a targeted group of students, such as for students receiving  special education services. None of these bills passed.   


In 2011, legislation to create a “Taxpayer Savings Grant” program was filed in Texas, as it has been in  many other states. This legislation would have reimbursed parents or legal guardians for the lesser of  the cost of their children’s private school tuition or 60 percent of the state average per‐pupil 

expenditure in public schools. That bill did not pass.  


Types of Vouchers 

Voucher programs may take many forms.  

 Traditional Vouchers: Traditional voucher programs require the state to send funds directly to  the private school in which a voucher‐eligible student is enrolled. Publicly funded vouchers are  not currently available in Texas, though legislation attempting to create a voucher program in  Texas has been introduced during most legislative sessions since 1995.  


 Tax Credits: Voucher programs also can take the form of tax credits, including (1) personal‐use  tax credits, which reimburse parents for their children’s private school tuition, or (2) donation  tax credits, which provide a tax credit to individuals or corporations who donate to an education  scholarship fund. Such tax credits are often called “back‐door vouchers.” Legislation attempting  to create tax credits for private school tuition in Texas failed to pass during several previous  legislative sessions. Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico, for example, provide tax‐credit  vouchers. Each of these has a state income tax against which the tax credit is applied. 


Private Scholarships  

Voucher advocates often refer to privately funded scholarships to send students to private schools as  vouchers. These scholarships are distinct from vouchers because they are privately funded rather than  funded with tax dollars. In 1998, a pro‐voucher organization, the Children’s Educational Opportunity  (CEO) Foundation, initiated a scholarship program to allow students enrolled in the Edgewood  Independent School District to attend private schools.   


Differences between Public Schools and Private Schools 

Because private schools do not accept public funds, they do not have to comply with many of the laws  that accompany state and federal funds. For instance:  

 Private schools do not have to follow the state’s curriculum. 


© 2012 Texas Association of School Boards • All rights reserved. 

 Private schools do not have to administer state accountability exams in grades 3–8 or end‐of‐

course assessments. 

 Private schools do not receive state or federal accountability ratings. 

 Private schools are not subject to the state’s financial accountability laws. 

 Private schools are not subject to the data reporting and other transparency mandates imposed  by state law.  

 Private schools do not have to provide breakfast or lunch to economically disadvantaged  students. 

 Private schools do not have to provide transportation to students. 

 Private schools may deny enrollment to students for various reasons, including educational  performance, disciplinary problems, or special needs.  


83rd Legislative Session 

Vouchers, tax credits, and other school choice legislation will likely reappear during the 83rd Legislature  for several reasons. The governor, lieutenant governor, and many legislators have publicly expressed  their support for vouchers, and the American Legislative Exchange Council is aggressively promoting 

“Taxpayer Savings Grant” legislation among state legislators across the nation. 


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