The Senate Bill 1882 legislation led to changes in operation at six failing campuses in Fort Worth ISD, but some residents might still be confused on the law, who runs the schools and if they’re charters or public schools.
In visiting some of those schools now, Fort Worth ISD board president Tobi Jackson previously told the Report she notices it offers more choices for the community, provides greater access to resources for students and gives faculty some autonomy.
“It was pretty cool to be able to see principals just be able to do things in a little bit different manner, just a little bit different mindset,” Jackson said of her experience visiting a campus. “And it doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s just different, and different serves more of the public.”
What is SB 1882?
The 2017 legislation provides financial incentives for school districts to create charter partnerships for the purposes of innovation and student outcomes.
According to the Texas Education Agency, those partnerships could expand the diversity of school options, bring in expertise for innovation and turnaround, and give more autonomy to campuses.
In addition to the state funding, some F-rated campuses can get a temporary pause from accountability sanctions or state takeover for a partnership.
The additional funding is not the same for every campus. The state will provide up to the state average that open enrollment charter schools received that are approved by the State Board of Education and authorized by TEA.
According to TEA, there is not a set amount that each district receives for a partnership campus; the funding depends on the difference between the district campus’ Average Daily Attendance and the statewide average for funding for open enrollment charter schools.
How do partnerships work?
To get a partnership approved, districts start the process in accordance with its own board policy. The first step is to open an application, typically called a Call for Quality School. Districts can partner with an existing charter school, a nonprofit organization, an institution of higher education or a government entity. If the partnership is for turnaround purposes, the partner must have existed for at least three years and have a track record of success for campus improvement.
The application asks for interested partners to outline the model the partner wants to implement at a campus.
That outline, according to TEA, describes the operations plan, finances and governance. Once the district has the applications, a review panel goes over the applications, conducts interviews with applicants and selects an applicant to go before the board.
Once the district approves the partnership and performance contract, the district applies to TEA for SB 1882 benefits. TEA only evaluates the authorizing policies, practices and contract to determine if the partnership can lead to additional funding or an accountability rating pause.
While the contracts may vary across the partnerships, there are specific requirements to be eligible for 1882 benefits from TEA. The contract must give the operating partner clear autonomy over:
- The academic model
Additionally, the contract must make it clear to the partner the academic and financial goals for the partner to complete every year and consequences for failure to meet those goals.
There are two kinds of partnerships districts can pursue: innovation and improvement. Both seek to meet the needs of students and the community.
According to TEA, innovation partnerships are authorized at a new or existing campus with acceptable performance ratings to provide more options for different school models.
For an improvement — or turnaround — partnership, the district authorizes a charter to bring in the skills necessary to quickly improve student outcomes at a campus with failing ratings.
How do these campuses hire staff members?
Each charter partner has its own board that is appointed and subject to the same open meeting laws as school boards.
Staff at SB 1882 campuses can still be school district employees, according to TEA. Some partners directly employ the campus staff and some select and manage district staff.
To be eligible for benefits, there must be at least one staff member directly employed by the partner dedicated to the management of the campus. If staff remain district employees, the operator must have sole authority to assign staff members to the campus or rescind the assignments.
What kind of agreements does Fort Worth ISD have?
In 2019, Fort Worth ISD partnered with Texas Wesleyan University Leadership Academy Network to form an 1882 partnership to operate Como Elementary, John T. White Elementary, Maude I. Logan Elementary, Mitchell Boulevard Elementary and Forest Oak Middle School.
The network was formed as a result of failing accountability grades at the campus. Board President Tobi Jackson previously told the Report the network gets an additional $2,000 per student.
When this year’s accountability ratings come out, it will be the first time the partnership will be evaluated based on ratings by the district. There was a pause in ratings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jacquet is operated by Phalen Leadership Academies, an Indianapolis-based charter school network. The partnership was formed in April 2021 after Jacquet received an F in accountability ratings. Teachers at the school complained earlier this year that high turnover of principals over the past decade has hampered the staff’s efforts to improve student outcomes.
Whether these partnerships are improving Fort Worth ISD schools will be put to the test when the state releases ratings later this summer.
Priscila Dilley, senior officer for the Leadership Academy Network, is confident there will be positive results.
“People have differences of opinions on the partnerships and also, obviously, it depends on where you’re at and what the structure looks like,” Dilley previously told the Report. “I will say that our schools have made a tremendous transformation from the very first time to like when you walk in to now. I’m very proud of what I see.”
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.