The Longview ISD application to create a charter school network within the district is in greater peril than was described last week.
The Texas Education Agency had been scheduled to let the district know last Friday whether its application to enter a charter/district partnership with a nonprofit charter would be approved or not.
“This letter is to inform you that Longview ISD’s submission for Texas Partnership benefits with East Texas Advanced Academies has been denied,” a letter dated Friday from TEA to Superintendent James Wilcox reads.
TEA sent that letter to the News-Journal after reading stories quoting charter/district advocate Sam Satterwhite describing the notification as “some more hoops to be jumped through.”
The letter isn’t the final bell on Longview ISD’s pursuit of a charter partnership under Senate Bill 1882. It offers the options of application modification or a waiver of the Education Code section it violates.
Longview has designated seven of its 13 campuses as within the nonprofit East Texas Advanced Academies district-within-a-district. That was too many, the denial letter said.
“The requested number of campuses and projected student enrollment exceeds the limitations outlined in” Texas Education Code rules written to enact SB 1882, the letter reads. “The application must be modified to comply with the limitations in (the Education Code), or a waiver must be requested in order to exceed the limitation on the percentage of students served.”
Longview ISD had proposed including Johnston-McQueen Elementary School, J.L. Everhart Elementary School, East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, Bramlette STEAM Academy, Ware East Texas Montessori Academy, Forest Park Middle School and Longview Early Graduation High School in the group.
The Education Code cited in TEA’s denial says no more than 15 percent of a district’s student body, from the previous school year, can enroll in the charter district. It grants an exception to allow continuous grade flow from kindergarten to graduation.
It reads as follows:
“Except as otherwise provided by this subsection or Subsection ©, a district charter may be granted under this section only to one or more campuses serving in total a percentage of the district’s student enrollment equal to not more than 15 percent of the district’s student enrollment for the preceding school year. The percentage limit may not prevent a district from granting a district charter to at least one feeder pattern of schools, including an elementary, middle or junior high, and high school.”
Using the TEA’S Texas Academic Performance Report that says Longview ISD had 8,547 total students in 2017-18, a limit of 15 percent would mean the charter district could enroll no more than 1,282 students.
The combined enrollment at the seven campuses, based on 2017-18 enrollment numbers from TEA, was 3,766 students — nearly three times the charter limit.
Wilcox, who is in Austin this week for the Texas superintendents’ winter conference, did not return a detailed message left Monday on his cellphone.
Satterwhite on Monday emphasized the options TEA left open.
“You realize that’s a conditional denial, not a flat-out,” he said. “Dr. Wilcox is in Austin working on that today.”
Satterwhite said he was uncertain how Longview ISD will correct the application.
“Dr. Wilcox has not told me that,” he said, adding it is likely that one or more of the seven campuses will need to fall off the application. “I would assume that.”
If approved in Austin, the district/charter arrangement would mean up to $6.5 million in new state funding for LISD under the 2017 law allowing public schools to enter a contract with a charter district.
District officials, including Satterwhite who is poised to be one of three trustees of the charter district, have hailed the Senate Bill 1882 charter option as a way to fund many innovative education opportunities.
The officials envision expanding robotics learning to all grades, field trips to NASA and other options that are out of reach without additional funding.