SCS/HS/HCS/HB 543 - This act establishes provisions related to school accountability, allowing enrollment of nonresident students in public school districts, and allowing parents to file formal objections related to policies, practices, and procedures in public schools.
SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY BOARD
This act establishes the School Accountability Board, composed of members as described in the act. Each member shall serve at the pleasure of the official who appointed the member. The Board shall advise the State Board of Education and Department on matters pertaining to the development and implementation of the state's school improvement program through activities described in the act, including presenting findings and recommendations related to school and district accountability and improvement to the State Board of Education at least two times annually.
These provisions are similar to provisions in SCS/SB 400 (2021).
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PERSISTENTLY FAILING SCHOOLS
Under this act, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall, by November 1 of each year, publish on the Department's website a list of schools in the state that have been performing within the bottom 5% of schools for more than three years, and shall designate any such school as a "persistently failing school".
Any school district with more than two schools falling into the bottom 5% of schools for more than two years shall be classified as provisionally accredited by the State Board of Education.
School districts with any school falling in the bottom 5% of schools for three years over a five year period beginning in 2018, shall close the school and transfer students attending such school to a higher performing school in the district; develop a partnership with a nonprofit school operator to create an in-district charter school; reimburse a transfer school district or charter school an amount equal to the district's average per-pupil expenditure; or participate in the School Turnaround Act.
Any school district that has more than 20% of students attending persistently failing schools shall work with an external partner to develop a district plan to improve such schools' average proficiency on statewide standardized assessments by at least 5% each year. Alternatively, such district may develop a plan to reduce the number of students in such schools by 5% each year. Such districts shall also establish a charter authorizing office or partner with an eligible public four-year college or university to review any charter petitions for the district, approve such charter petitions, and submit such petitions to the State Board of Education for a vote.
These provisions are identical to HCS/HB 541 (2021) and are similar to SB 133 (2021) and SB 1021 (2020).
ENROLLMENT FOR CHILDREN OF NONRESIDENT PROPERTY OWNERS
Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, any person who owns residential real property or agricultural real property and pays a school tax in any school district in which such person does not reside may send his or her children to a public school in any such district. For purposes of calculating state aid to school districts, such children shall be counted in the average daily attendance of the school district where they attend. To enroll children this way, the person shall send written notice to all school districts involved specifying the school where his or her children will attend at least thirty days prior to enrollment, providing proof of payment of school taxes for the last two years. (Sections 167.020 and 167.151)
Under this act, a parent or guardian may file with the school board a formal objection to any school policy, practice, or procedure which applies to the parent, guardian, or his or her child, including instructional materials or methods not required by state law.
Within 30 days of receipt of the objection, the school board shall issue a response denying the parent's objection or describing an implementation plan to immediately exempt the child from the policy, practice, or procedure. School boards may deny parental objections that allege a de minimis infringement of parental rights or if the requested accommodation is unreasonable. An infringement is considered de minimis if it is not related to the content of curriculum or instruction and does not have a material impact on the child's care, custody, upbringing, education, religious instruction, place of habitation, or physical or mental health care.
Parents and guardians may appeal a school board's denial by filing such appeal with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education within fifteen days of the issuance of the denial.
A parent or guardian shall be awarded one thousand five hundred dollars or the total amount of the parent or guardian's contributions to local property taxes in the preceding year, whichever is greater, if the school district fails to show by clear and convincing evidence that it responded as required by the act. Such award shall only be used for the child's educational expenses.
These provisions are substantially similar to SB 352 (2021).
PUBLIC SCHOOL OPEN ENROLLMENT ACT
This act establishes the Public School Open Enrollment Act to enable K-12 students to attend school in a nonresident district. On or before October 1st of each year, each school district shall indicate whether it will participate in the program during the subsequent school year. Participating districts may accept transfer nonresident students from any other school district. For the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, a district may restrict the number of students who may transfer away from the school district to a maximum of 5% of the district's enrollment for the prior year.
The Open Enrollment Act shall not be construed to require any school to add teachers, staff, or classrooms, or to require any school to provide special education services to nonresident students if the school district is unable to provide appropriate services based on standards for evaluating transfer applications as provided in the act. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall develop a model policy for districts to determine such standards and the number of transfers they may accept. The model policy shall be adopted by all districts, whether or not they participate in the program, and may be modified to meet each district's particular needs. The model policy shall require each district to define "insufficient classroom space" and may provide additional standards for evaluating transfer applications.
Nonresident districts shall accept credits toward graduation from other districts and shall award a diploma to any transfer student meeting such nonresident district's graduation requirements.
Superintendents shall cause information regarding the open enrollment program to be posted on his or her school district's website and in the district's student handbooks.
A student seeking to transfer to a magnet school, academically selective school, or school with a competitive entrance process shall submit proof that the student meets all admission requirements. A student may be denied transfer if, in the most recent school year, he or she has been suspended from school two or more times, was suspended for an act of school violence, or expelled for acts school administrators are required to report to law enforcement under current law. Such student may alternatively be permitted to transfer on a provisional, probationary basis subject to no further disruptive behavior based on standards that shall be developed by the nonresident district. Students denied transfer shall have the right to an in-person meeting with the nonresident district's superintendent.
A 9th-12th grade transfer student shall be ineligible to participate in varsity sports during the first 90 days of such student's enrollment, unless the student is entering the 9th grade for the first time and did not participate in sports at another school during the summer, the resident and nonresident districts jointly participate in the sport, the sport is not offered at the district of residence, the resident district was unaccredited and dissolved or merged with another district, the student has an active duty military parent, the student was previously subject to bullying, or the student attended the nonresident school for at least the past year under a different transfer arrangement. Statewide activities associations may provide additional penalties if the student was unduly influenced to transfer for reasons related to participation in sports. (Sections 167.1200 and 167.1205)
Students may transfer into only one nonresident district per school year. Such students shall commit to attending and taking all courses through the nonresident district for at least one school year, and at least one such course shall be in-seat. Students that transfer back to their resident districts shall reapply in order to transfer back into a nonresident district and shall first remain in the resident district for at least one full semester. Students who transfer back to the resident district shall not be eligible for varsity-level activities for 90 days. Any student who transfers more than once during high school shall be ineligible to participate in varsity-level activities for at least 365 days.
Siblings of transfer students may also enroll in the nonresident district, subject to limitations based on school capacity and such sibling having no disciplinary issues.
Except for students who qualify for reimbursement of transportation costs as described in the act and for agreements allowing such student to be picked up at an existing bus stop, transferring students or their parents shall be responsible for transportation to nonresident districts. By agreement with the nonresident school district, parents of transfer students may waive requirements for such district to provide transportation required under the student's Individualized Education Program plan.
Any student who qualifies for free and reduced price lunch and transfers to an adjacent school district shall be reimbursed quarterly by the Parent Public School Choice Fund established in this act, based on calculations as described in the act. (Section 167.1210)
Transfer students who receive special education services shall be reimbursed by the Parent Public School Choice Fund for the costs of providing such services in excess of applicable state and federal funds. Such reimbursement shall not exceed the district's current expenditure per average daily attendance. (Section 167.1211)
This act establishes the Parent Public School Choice Fund. The Fund shall consist of a one-time appropriation of $30 million, any subsequent appropriations, and any funds collected under the Open Enrollment Act. (Section 167.1212)
By October 1st annually, each school district shall set the number of transfer students such district will accept for the following school year. The district may set criteria, including limits on the number of students to be accepted to particular buildings, grades, classrooms, or programs. Districts shall publish and notify the Department of such information.
Each district shall develop a procedure for creating a waiting list for all transfer applications when applications exceed the district's maximum. In accepting transfer students from the waiting list, districts shall give additional priority to students in the following order: siblings of transfer students, children of active duty military personnel, children of district employees, students who previously attended as resident students, and students whose parents' employment circumstances would cause transfer to be in the student's best interest. Districts may also include other priority factors. Parents of applicants shall be informed of how the waiting list shall operate and may be required to reapply to remain on the waiting list. (Section 167.1215)
Transfer applications shall be submitted to the nonresident and resident districts on a form approved by the Department before December 1st in the year prior to the school year in which the student seeks to transfer. Nonresident districts shall mark the date and time of receipt on each such application. Applications shall be reviewed and decided upon by the superintendent. Reasons for any rejection shall be submitted to the school board for review, and rejection decisions may only be finalized by a majority vote of the board.
School boards may adopt a district policy granting the district's superintendent authority to approve transfer applications submitted after the December 1st deadline if conditions described in the act are met, including a finding of good cause. The act provides additional procedures related to the timing of late applications. Resident districts may appeal the decisions of nonresident districts for suspected violations of the late application provisions of the act. The Commissioner of Education shall mediate such disputes and shall conduct a hearing if the mediation is unsuccessful. A decision shall be issued within 10 days of such hearing and may be appealed within 5 days.
The superintendents of nonresident districts shall notify the parents of transfer applicants by February 1st whether the application has been accepted or rejected. Such notice shall include, if the application is rejected, the reason for a rejection, or, if the application is accepted, an enrollment deadline and instructions for renewing the transfer enrollment. (Section 167.1220)
The provisions of the Open Enrollment Act shall not supercede any provision of an enforceable desegregation court order or a court-approved desegregation plan. A school district may declare an exemption for the Open Enrollment Act if the district is subject to such an order or desegregation plan, or if the district is subject to a settlement agreement to remedy past segregation. Such an exemption is irrevocable for one year from the date the district gives notice to the Department. Notice of an exemption or to resume participation in the Open Enrollment Act for the next school year shall be issued to the Department by April 1st.
By June 1st of each year, the Department shall report to each school district the maximum number of transfers under the Open Enrollment Act for the next school year.
When students are unable to transfer due to an exemption declared by a school district due to a court order, desegregation plan, or segregation-related settlement agreement, such students shall be given priority for any transfers in the subsequent school year by the resident district in the order application notices were received from such students.
A school district with an approved or voluntary diversity plan may deny an Open Enrollment Act transfer if the district determines that such transfer conflicts with such plan. Such denials shall be deemed to be made in good faith.
Students transferring to nonresident districts pursuant to provisions of current law allowing transfer if the resident district does not offer high school instruction, under the Elementary and Secondary School District Enrollment Option Act, or through the Metropolitan Schools Achieving Value in Transfer Corporation, shall not be subject to the requirements of the Open Enrollment Act. School districts participating in such programs shall also not be subject to such requirements. Students transferring pursuant to the Open Enrollment Act shall not considered transfer students for purposes of other provisions of current law allowing transfer. (Section 167.1225)
Transfer applicants who are rejected may file an appeal with the Department. The appeal shall be sent in writing within 10 business days after the student or the student's parent receives notice of rejection. A copy shall also be sent to the superintendent of the district where the applicant seeks to transfer. The appeal shall state the basis for appeal, shall include a copy of the notice of rejection, and may include documentation to show that transfer would be in the student's best interest. The nonresident district may submit additional documentation or arguments supporting the rejection decision to the Department, and shall submit copies of any such response to the student or student's parent, no later than 10 days after receiving a copy of the appeal. The Department shall notify the parent, nonresident district, and resident district of the basis for the Department's decision if it overturns the rejection.
The Department shall collect data from school districts on the number of applications made under the act to study its effects. The Department shall consider the maximum number of transfers and exemptions for up to two years to determine whether a significant racially segregative impact has occurred in any district. Before October 1st of each year, the Department shall report its findings to the Joint Committee on Education, the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, the Senate Committee on Education, and any other education committee designated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. (Section 167.1230)
These provisions shall become effective on July 1, 2022.