The Hays ISD board of trustees voted unanimously during its Sept. 18 meeting to join other Texas districts in a lawsuit filed against the Texas Education Agency over proposed changes made to the state’s accountability ratings system and the agency’s failure to notify school districts of the changes.

The details

The TEA implemented the A-F rating system in the 2017-18 school year. According to HCISD, it is a statewide rating system established by the Texas Legislature to provide information about the academic performance of Texas schools.

HCISD has joined over 50 school districts across the state in the litigation against the TEA based on Texas Education Code 39.0542 due to its failure to provide school districts a document in a simple, assessable format that explains the accountability performance measures, methods and procedures that will be applied for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, according to the resolution.

The adjusted criteria includes a new threshold for college, career and military readiness scores, raising it from 60% to 88% to earn an A rating.

HCISD Superintendent Eric Wright recommended the board join the lawsuit to support the hard work of students and employees in the district.

“We're showing growth across almost every area, and yet the rating that we get is going to reflect that we went backwards instead of forward,” Wright said.

The framework

The TEA announced Sept. 12 that the scores will be delayed one month to allow for further re-examination of the baseline data used in calculations.

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath is specifically named in the lawsuit, which is seeking one of the following two options for the accountability scores:
  • For the commissioner to issue ratings for the 2022-23 school year and the 2023-24 school year using the existing system
  • For the commissioner to issue no ratings for the two school years
“I'm all about raising the bar. I believe in accountability,” Wright said. “I believe in closing gaps, and I believe in always being transparent, but if our leader the commissioner is not offering up all those things in advance, then the system is not fair.”

Diving in deeper

HCISD Trustee Esperanza Orosco said out of the 1,600 high school campuses in Texas, 1,100 of them received A ratings with the previous accountability system. Through the new proposed system, only 384 high school campuses in the state would maintain an A.

“It is shameful that the state of Texas is trying to demonstrate or trying to make it seem like public education is not working in the state,” Orosco said.

HCISD Trustee Johnny Flores said he feels the district should take a unified and principled stance to actions being taken in Austin.

“It was very deflating to hear what was going on in the presentation that we heard about the change in the accountability rating systems [and] how it could affect the hard work that has been done by our kids and teachers and administrators,” Flores said.

According to Flores, the lawsuit will cost a total of $200,000, which will be split evenly among the districts that join the litigation. District officials said due to the number of districts that have joined so far, the cost will be less than $5,000 to HCISD.

The motion to approve the resolution and join the litigation was approved unanimously by board members in attendance with Trustee at Large Vanessa Petrea not present at the board meeting to cast a vote.