There seems to be some confusion about whether Texas’s new “parent trigger” law, SB 738, includes the option of conversion to a campus charter school. It is true that the words “charter school” do not appear in the bill. Instead, the language used is “alternative management”, but it accomplishes the same result.
Let me explain using the language of SB 738 and the current language in the Texas Education Code to which it applies.
If a particular public school is rated unacceptable for two consecutive years, it begins a “reconstitution” period of three years (Section 39.107(a), Texas Education Code). If the school continues to be rated unacceptable throughout the three year reconstitution period, the Commissioner of Education must act at the end of the reconstitution period in one of three ways (Section 39.107(e)). The commissioner may act at any time during the reconstitution period, if the school has not made sufficient improvement as determined by the commissioner (Section 39.107(d)).
The essence of SB 738 is that it allows the parents of the majority of students of the school to formally request which of the three alternative actions they want the commissioner to choose.
One of the three ways that the commissioner may act is to order “alternative management” of the campus (Section 39.107(d)(2)). Whether or not SB 738 is in fact a “parent trigger” bill depends on the definition of the “alternative management” choice.
Section 39.107(h) defines “alternative management”. It says the following.
“If the commissioner orders alternative management …, the commissioner shall solicit proposals from qualified nonprofit entities to assume management of [the] campus … or may appoint … a school district other than the district in which the campus is located… The commissioner may also solicit proposals from qualified for-profit entities, if [no] qualified nonprofit [has submitted] a proposal.”
It is clear in Section 39.107(h) that when alternative management is chosen by the commissioner, he does not have the option of returning the management of the campus to the district in which the school resides.
The words “nonprofit entities” and “for-profit entities” mean non-governmental (private sector) school management companies! That is exactly the definition of a campus charter school!
The only difference between SB738 and the California parent trigger bill has to do with timing. The California bill says that the parent petition can be sent after two years of unacceptable performance by the school. SB 738 says that the parent petition must be implemented at the end of five unacceptable years (two years before entering the three year reconstitution period). But the education code (Section 39.107(d)) gives the commissioner the discretion to implement “alternative management” at any time during the reconstitution period.
So under SB 738, it is possible for the “alternative management” (campus charter school) to be initiated very soon after the two unacceptable years that initiate the reconstitution period. A friendly commissioner could try to implement the parents petition as soon as he determines that it is best for the students. I think that we currently have a friendly commissioner, Robert Scott.
In summary, SB 738 is a true parent trigger bill that can initiate a campus charter school. It just takes longer to pull the trigger.