House Bill 2610, passed in the 84th Legislative Session, amended section 25.081 of the Texas Education Code to define a school year as 75,600 minutes instead of 180 days to create flexibility for school districts. But, the passage of HB 2610 resulted in less flexibility, innovation, and funding for certain charter schools. As a result, 110 public charter school campuses, serving over 20,000 students were set to lose funding in the 2017-2018 school year.
During the 85th Legislative Session, three bills—Senate Bill 1660 by Chairman Larry Taylor, Senate Bill 1280 by Senator Don Huffines, and House Bill 2442 by Representative Ken King—were introduced in the Senate and House to address the unintended consequences caused by HB 2610. TCSA wanted a proposal that would protect all charter schools and worked extensively with various stakeholders to provide input on a solution. SB 1280 provided all schools with the choice between a calendar based on 180 days or 75,600 minutes. During a committee hearing, Chairman Taylor incorporated SB 1280 into SB 1660. SB 1660, as substituted, provided flexibility to charter schools without losing funding and ensured a complete and comprehensive fix to HB 2610
Though TCSA appreciated Rep. King’s effort in filing House Bill 2442, as it was originally filed it created a lot of unknowns for charter schools. Charter schools would find it difficult to plan for the 2017-2018 school year because all decisions were left to the discretion of the Commissioner.
Throughout the legislative process, TCSA along with numerous schools including UME Prep, Winfree Academy, Chaparral Star, and UT Charter, provided input or testimony at committee hearings for SB 1660 and HB 2442.
Both bills passed their respective chambers, but when reported to the opposite chamber, Chairman Taylor and Representative King swapped in their own language for the language in the original bills. Though this led to some confusion as the bills continued to move forward, eventually, through negotiations, Chairman Taylor and Representative King compromised and merged the two bills into HB 2442. TCSA worked until the last possible minute to ensure the final bill provided relief to all charter schools impacted by HB 2610. The final version of HB 2442 kept important pieces from SB 1660 and was passed late on Sunday, May 28, 2017.
A Comprehensive Solution
House Bill 2442 keeps the requirement of 75,600 minutes of instructional time, but amends Section 42.005 to ensure all charter schools continue to receive full funding. First, public schools that operate a prekindergarten program are eligible to receive funding for a half day if they provide at least 32,400 minutes (3 hours per day) of instructional time to students. Second, public schools are eligible to earn funding for a full day if they provide at least 43,200 minutes (4 hours per day) of instructional time to students enrolled in (1) a dropout recovery school; (2) an alternative education program; (3) a school program located at a day treatment facility, a residential treatment facility, psychiatric hospital, or medical hospital; (4) program offered at a correctional facility, or (5) a charter school providing adult high school diplomas or industry certification under Section 29.259. These are public schools working with Texas’ most vulnerable student populations.
Finally, any charter school that operated before January 1, 2015 is eligible to earn full average daily attendance under the previous 180 days requirements. Additionally, a charter school operating prior to January 1, 2015 is eligible to expand its model, if the charter school received an academic accountability performance rating of a C or higher and the campus or site expansion is approved by the commissioner.