AUSTIN - The 83rd Texas Legislature should enhance the ability of parents, citizens, and educators to form home-rule school districts and campus charters in Texas public schools, according to a report published today by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
"By freeing schools from costly, inefficient mandates and empowering parents to better guide their children's education, home-rule districts and campus charters can increase educational quality while reducing educational costs," said Foundation education policy analyst James Golsan.
Home-rule districts were authorized by the Texas Legislature in 1995 as a way to empower parents, citizens, and local educators to govern schools in a manner that best suits the needs of students in their district. However, none have been created because there are too many roadblocks to their creation and too many of the same mandates on traditionally-run school districts are imposed on home-ruled districts.
While home-rule districts are exempt from the state's minimum salary schedule for teachers as well as certain governance and curriculum requirements, they must continue to comply with state requirements on teacher certification, bilingual education, class size limits, and many other regulations.
"These restrictions on home-rule districts fail to adequately differentiate them from traditional ISDs and thus give them the needed flexibility to adopt innovative education practices," Golsan said. "Texas should enable home-rule districts to become an instrument that empowers parents and local educators, and also enables innovations like blended learning at the district level."
Removing seat-time and class-size requirements from Texas home-rule districts and schools should run hand in hand with encouraging them to increase their use of learning technologies, the report argues. While not necessarily appropriate for every classroom setting, these technologies could be powerful tools for Texas educators. Blended-learning models, which encourage self-pacing and self-teaching, could have a very direct impact on class size, and thus education costs for a district.
The report recommends eliminating the voter turnout requirements for home-rule charter elections and allowing parents to place a charter proposal directly on the ballot. While the report recommends freeing home-rule districts from certain state regulations, such districts should continue to be subject to state data collection and testing requirements, and the State Board of Education should retain the ability to discipline or revoke a home-rule district charter.
"Poor quality, new technology, repeated lawsuits, and high costs make change within the Texas public education system necessary and inevitable," said Foundation vice president of research Bill Peacock. "Locally led home-rule districts and campus charters will help ensure that the change will benefit Texas school children."
The report, "Improving Efficiency and Local Control in Texas Education: Home-rule Districts and Campus Charters," is available for free download from the Foundation's website, www.TexasPolicy.com.
James Golsan is an education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Bill Peacock is vice president of research at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.
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