LAWSUIT REGARDING CHANGES TO THE A-F ACCOUNTABILITY RATINGS SYSTEM
This year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has changed the “measures, methods, and procedures” relating to the A–F performance ratings for the 2022–2023 school year. Districts across the State of Texas have been assigned A–F performance ratings at both the school district and their campuses levels for the 2022–2023 school year, even though the calculations for those ratings were not provided to school districts at the beginning of the 2022–2023 school year, as required by law in Tex. Educ. Code § 39.0542. TEA has also changed the rating requirements for Graduation Cohorts that have already graduated or completed their courses and has stated that the Commissioner intends to retroactively apply different rules and methodologies that have not yet been finalized. In fact, these new requirements will only be finalized during the 2023–2024 school year.
The mission of the Freeze Accountability Coalition of Texas Schools (FACTS) is to enforce existing state law as written simply. No member district of FACTS believes itself to be exempt from accountability ratings, wishes to change accountability ratings, or wishes to circumvent accountability ratings. All member districts are ready, willing, and able to comply with whatever rating system the State provides. FACTS simply asks that, as required by law, the State gives due and proper notice of what that rating system is before districts are judged and potentially harmed by it. Therefore, FACTS is suing the Commissioner to freeze the use of the new accountability rating rubric this year and to postpone it until next school year. This gives public school districts adequate time to prepare and adapt to the new rules.
COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Is FACTS political or supported by a partisan group?
A. No. FACTS is an apolitical coalition, and the lawsuit simply seeks to enforce a law that already exists in Texas. FACTS only seeks to enforce TEA’s statutory notice requirements to public schools before the school year begins and not after it ends. FACTS is interested in upholding the law only.
Q. What is FACTS asking for, specifically?
A. FACTS is asking the Texas courts to either (A) continue the use of last year’s accountability rating metric, or (B) freeze school districts’ scores and allow districts’ accountability scores from last year to carry over into this year, much like TEA did during COVID-19. FACTS is asking for this relief to be applied statewide and to all school districts.
Q. Are there multiple lawsuits?
A. No. There is one lawsuit, originally drafted and filed by O’Hanlon Demerath & Castillo. The other party, or Intervenor, is asking to be merged into and made a part of the original lawsuit.
Q. What is the timeline to join/what’s next?
A. A temporary injunction order hearing was originally set for September 25, 2023, in the Travis County Courthouse located in Austin, Texas. The hearing is now rescheduled for October 10, 2023, and the Commissioner has agreed to take no action on performance ratings for the school districts in the lawsuit until on or after October 13, 2023. This hearing will be pivotal in determining the outcome of the accountability rating system.
Q. What has been the community feedback on FACTS?
A. FACTS has been largely well-received in communities across Texas. Most citizens can understand the basic fairness that comes with being provided with fair notice of the rules before one is ranked or scored. This lawsuit has been successful at staying neutral and non-controversial because it is only about fair notice and existing state law.
Q. How many districts have joined so far?
A. All in, there are more than 50 public school districts that have taken board action to join FACTS, and dozens more are pending board meeting votes across the state.