During the 84th Legislative Session, House Bill 1842 (also known as the “Districts of Innovation” bill) was passed by the Legislature, giving traditional independent schools most of the flexibilities available to the state’s open enrollment charter schools. Essentially, an innovation plan allows a district to exempt themselves from many of the Texas Education Code (TEC) requirements, thus gaining greater local control. To be eligible to apply for this designation, a district must have “Met Standard” on the state’s accountability system.
The idea behind Districts of Innovation is that a local school district may want to pursue specific innovations in curriculum, instruction, parent or community involvement, discipline management, school calendar, budgeting, or other areas. The developed innovation plan is expected to be unique to each school district, allowing for local values, needs, and goals to be incorporated into the plan.
Some areas where districts can gain flexibility include, but are not limited to: school start date, minimum minutes of instruction, class size ratio, student attendance rules, teacher certification and employment contracts, teacher appraisal system, certain purchasing contract requirements, and provisions related to student discipline. Requirements that cannot be exempted as part of the innovation plan include: District Governance, PEIMS reporting, criminal history checks, curriculum and graduation requirements, bilingual education, special education, pre-K programs, state assessment and accountability requirements, financial accountability, open meetings, and public records rules.
Elgin ISD took the first step in exploring this opportunity when the Board approved a resolution initiating the process on September 19, 2016. The Board then held a public hearing on October 17, 2016, to consider whether the district should develop an innovation plan, at which time the Board decided to move forward in the process. A committee made up of the District’s Executive Cabinet, Leadership Team, and District Advisory Council was appointed to develop an innovation plan. Once completed, the plan will have to be posted on-line for at least 30 days and the District Advisory Committee will be asked to approve it before it goes back to the Board for final approval. The term of the designation as a district of innovation may not exceed 5 years.