On March 21, 2017, HPISD school board voted 7-0 in favor of becoming a designated District of Innovation. In opposition of this concept, I penned a letter to our school board trustees prior to their vote and also testified against DOI before the Texas state Senate last fall. Innovative districts can exempt themselves from certain laws in theTexas Education Code that are in place to protect teachers, students and parental rights; these include teacher certification requirements, student attendance rules, length of the school day and start/end dates. Please take a moment to read my email and questions posed to the board, all of which remain unanswered.
Read my full letter to the board below.
To: email@example.com, TriggT@hpisd.org
Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 5:49 PM
Dear School Board,
I am writing as a parent, taxpayer, strong supporter of traditional public education and an advocate of teachers and parents. I spoke against the mirage of DOI last fall at the Senate Education Committee.
The DOI designation passed in 2015 as part of House Bill 1842. It gives districts that have met state academic standards a similar autonomy available to open-enrollment charter schools.
Innovative districts can exempt themselves from certain laws in Texas Education Code put in place to protect teachers, students and parental rights; including teacher certification requirements, student attendance rules, length of the school day and start dates.
As a DOI, schools can add as many students as they want in a classroom, with an uncertified teacher, without applying for a waiver and without having to notify parents. These exemptions from Texas Education Code put students and teachers at risk and removes parental rights.
After a district develops a DOI plan, with the intention of just taking a few of the options, such as an earlier start date, if that Superintendent is replaced, another Superintendent or school board could lead us down a path of much more concerning Texas Education Code opt outs. This is a concern as history has shown the hand picked committees operate as nothing more than rubber stamps for the Superintendent.
Although there are limitations on which laws the district can be exempt from, DOI gives a district the ability to request to be exempt from virtually all teacher rights and benefits, including the state minimum salary schedule, contracts, due process, planning periods, as well as class size caps, the right to remove a disruptive student, anti-bullying laws and other teacher, student and parent protections. As a strong advocate of teachers, parents and students, this is troubling and needs to be examined further.
The push for DOI begs the question … If there are regulations or legislation that truly ties the hands of schools, why is that not being addressed to the legislature? Addressing it with a designation that puts our traditional public schools under the laws of Charter Schools is certainly not the answer.
Texas American Federation of Teachers published a statement in August regarding the DOI designation. It referred to it as "one of the most hazardous pieces of legislation enacted by Texas lawmakers" because Education Code provides "many important safeguards of educational quality and employee, student, and parental rights,"
A few questions that should be answered prior to any trustee voting on this designation are:
1. Why is DOI necessary and why is it a good idea for HPISD?
2. HPISD has always been known as a leader of education in Texas so why are we relegating our district to being a follower of 120 and counting other Districts of Innovation?
3. How do we compare to the 120 districts who have adopted DOI like Spring Branch ISD, Lewisville ISD, Mansfield ISD to name a few?
4. How will DOI affect due process and T-TESS teacher evaluations?
6. HB 1842 allows the establishment of charter schools in District of innovations. Do you intend for HPISD to allow charter schools?
7. Are you aware, DOI sets us up the potential of eliminating a locally elected school board? Under HB 1842, DOI puts the power in the hands of the state… the opposite of local control.
8. How does DOI benefit student outcomes and teacher and parental rights?
I look forward to hearing your responses to my questions.
As Jon Dahlander stated at the last DOI meeting, the word “Innovation” is a marketing word used by the TEA. Skirting around Texas Education Code put in place to protect teacher, student and parental rights is anything but innovative.
HPISD’s calendar is set for 2017 so why the rush to adopt the experiment of DOI? Recently, Corpus Christi ISD, who is blessed to have 3 retired teachers on their board, tabled DOI and McAllen ISD and LISD said no to DOI.
I have serious concerns about this designation. Please do your research and either reject or table this experimental plan for HPISD.
Thank you for your time.
Pol. Adv. Paid for by Meg Bakich for HPISD Trustee