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B. Waiver Process Subcommittee Report


Questions to be answered by the subcommittee:

  • How can the waiver process be strengthened to ensure that parents and community members have a say in the decision-making process?
  • Who has the responsibility for determining a school district's start date--the local community or the state?


Findings of the subcommittee:

The Waiver Process Subcommittee did not reach unanimous support regarding these questions, but the majority did feel the community, not the school board, should make the decision. At least two members of the subcommittee expressed the opinion that school district Boards of Trustees are members of the community elected to represent the communities they serve. One member expressed great concern about the economic impact on school districts choosing earlier school start dates than the state recommended.


Recommendations:

  • School districts should provide a minimum of seven days notice to the public regarding the hearing and it should be scheduled on the same day as the regular school board meeting.
  • Advertisement placed in the newspaper of general circulation should also include an address for the public to submit written comments. Comments should be placed on record at the public hearing. School districts should also be required to send notices home with students and put the meeting notice on the district web site as well.
  • Require school boards to provide detailed information to the public regarding the waiver process.
  • Require school districts to provide sample calendars. School district should be required to present the actual calendar for which they are soliciting support, not just present a school start date.
  • School board members should not make a decision regarding the proposed waiver request for 30 days after the public hearing. This would allow community members 30 days to send letters to the school district or make their thoughts known to all.
  • School districts should not be allowed to hold public hearings any earlier than 16 months prior to the proposed school start date, as many impacted may not be living in the area and may not be allowed a vote if school districts are allowed to request waivers earlier.
  • School districts should have their final request to TEA no later than March 1. Requests submitted later create hardships on parents and teachers attempting to finalize summer plans.
  • Require school districts to identify speakers and their thoughts at the public hearing. Also require speakers to identify themselves as parents, teachers, staff or community members, and whether the person lives within the voting boundaries of the district.
  • Require the school district to submit all written comments, witness cards and other documentation relating to the wavier request to TEA.
  • Require TEA to remove the request currently on its wavier form asking for the school board member vote on the issue. The idea of community support should standalone and this information should not be relevant.
  • Require the Commissioner of Education to strictly enforce the requirements of the waiver process and not vary or have rule making authority.
  • Review the impact of UIL rules and the scheduling of extracurricular practices on the start date. Consider whether changes are needed to the UIL rules to avoid driving the school calendar and reduce the incidence of heat-related illnesses and deaths among students.

Other suggestions:

  • Remove waiver option from school start date law.
  • Allow waivers to a certain point. For example, allow waivers to be requested allowing a school start date as early as August 16th, but no earlier.