Chapter 61. School Districts
Subchapter B. Special Purpose School Districts


§61.101. Applicability of State Law for Special Purpose School Districts.

(a) This section applies only to the special purpose school districts operated by the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tech University.

(b) The special purpose school districts operated by the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tech University are public schools of this state fulfilling the mission of the Texas public education system to ensure that Texas students receive a quality education that enables them to achieve their potential and fully participate now and in the future in the social, economic, and educational opportunities of our state and nation.

(c) Each special purpose school district shall be governed by the board of regents of the parent university, which has the authority and responsibilities of a school district board of trustees with respect to the operation of the special purpose school district but has no authority to levy a tax. The board of regents may delegate authority and responsibilities.

(d) Each special purpose school district shall have an advisory board consisting of at least five members that, along with the superintendent, reports to the board of regents regarding the operation of the district. The president of the university may designate a person to report on the management, operations, and accountability of the special purpose school district to the board of regents. The following requirements apply to each special purpose school district.

(1) The advisory board shall hold public meetings that comply with appropriate notice requirements for governmental bodies.

(2) The president of the university shall appoint the superintendent of the special purpose school district.

(3) The university shall submit nominees for approval by the State Board of Education (SBOE) to serve as special purpose school district advisory board members. The superintendent may not participate in the nomination process for the advisory board.

(4) The superintendent and advisory board shall ensure information required to be made available to the public is made available on the special purpose school district's website.

(5) The university shall develop an advisory board training program that provides the relevant board training required under Texas Education Code (TEC), §11.159, and shall submit to the SBOE the training requirements by September 1 of each odd-numbered year.

(e) Students who are eligible to enroll in a Texas independent or common school district are eligible to enroll in a special purpose school district, and each special purpose school district:

(1) shall establish an initial enrollment window for each academic semester that uses a lottery to fill open spots not filled by previously enrolled students. After the initial enrollment window closes, enrollment may be based on a first come first served basis;

(2) shall develop an outreach program targeted at underserved student populations;

(3) may admit students at least 21 years of age and under 26 years of age for the purpose of completing the requirements for a high school diploma in accordance with TEC, §25.001. For purposes of TEC, §25.001(b-2), the term "classroom setting" does not include a virtual classroom that has no physical proximity; and

(4) is neither required nor prohibited from providing a student with home computer equipment or internet access.

(f) Except as provided elsewhere in this section, each special purpose school district operates as a public school of Texas, and the laws applicable to Texas public schools, per TEC, §11.352(c), apply, including:

(1) providing for equal education opportunity, in accordance with the TEC and constitutions of Texas and the United States;

(2) charging fees, holding funding in trust for the education of students, and spending funding to achieve the educational purposes listed in this section;

(3) complying with student records retention, transmission, and other related requirements;

(4) having access to other school resources such as regional education service centers under TEC, Chapter 8 and §11.003; commissioner of education waiver authority under TEC, §7.056; school immunity under TEC, Chapter 22, Subchapter B; and relevant grant programs;

(5) certification requirements under TEC, §§21.003, 21.055, and 21.057, and continuing education requirements under TEC, §21.054, with employment practices to include provisions substantially similar to TEC, §21.0031 and §21.058;

(6) complying with the health, safety, and welfare provisions such as reporting of misconduct under TEC, §§21.006, 21.0061, 21.009, 21.057, 21.058, 21.0581, and 21.062, and background checks under TEC, Chapter 22, Subchapters C and C-1;

(7) parental and student rights such as those provided for in TEC, Chapter 26.

(A) The special purpose school district shall establish a grievance process for complaints.

(B) If the special purpose school district determines that releasing a copy of an assessment would jeopardize the security of the assessment because it has not been published and is not publicly available, in place of releasing a copy of the assessment, the special purpose school district shall provide information regarding the standards and concepts for which the student failed to demonstrate proficiency or, using appropriate security protocols, make the assessment available for personal review by the student and parent without releasing a copy;

(8) creditable years of service;

(9) curriculum and graduation requirements under TEC, Chapter 28;

(10) the instructional materials allotment and the provisions of TEC, Chapter 31; and

(11) accreditation, assessment of academic skills, academic accountability, and interventions and sanctions under TEC, §11.001 and Chapters 39 and 39A.

(g) Each special purpose school district shall develop a policy regarding when a student is deemed absent and has excessive absences under its program.

(1) If the student has excessive absences under the policy, the special purpose school district shall notify both the student and the school district the student would otherwise be entitled to attend that the student has been disenrolled from the special purpose school district.

(2) By September 1 of each odd-numbered school year, the special purpose school district shall submit its absence policy to the SBOE, including any modifications made since the previous submission.

(h) If a special purpose school district seeks a waiver under commissioner authority for more than three consecutive years, the special purpose school district shall submit the issue to the SBOE for consideration as a possible permanent exemption.

(i) As a special purpose school district is designed to provide education statewide through digital learning methodologies, the following special requirements and modifications are in effect.

(1) TEC, Chapter 12A, does not apply.

(2) TEC, Chapter 22, Subchapter A, does not apply.

(3) The superintendent shall make personnel decisions for the special purpose school district.

(A) Employee grievances shall be covered by the parent university's human resources practices.

(B) The parent university's human resources requirements and practices shall apply to employees, unless otherwise indicated by law or rule.

(4) The special purpose school district shall operate in the time and accounting manner necessary to comply with the funding model established by the commissioner for access to Foundation School Program (FSP) funds.

(5) The special purpose school district shall adopt a student code of conduct that aligns with the provisions of TEC, Chapter 37, but is not required to include the use of disciplinary alternative education programs or juvenile justice alternative education programs.

(6) The special purpose school district shall annually submit to the SBOE a report on disciplinary actions made to the district and a report on complaints made to the special purpose school district.

(7) TEC, §§11.1542, 11.1543, and 11.155, do not apply.

(8) The special purpose school district is not required to have the membership compositions for committees under TEC, §§11.251, 11.252, 11.253, or 11.255, but must develop plans and policies that comply with those provisions.

(9) Educator contract requirements under TEC, Chapter 21, Subchapters C, D, E, F, and G; appraisal system requirements under TEC, Chapter 21, Subchapter H; duties and benefits requirements under TEC, Chapter 21, Subchapter I; and staff development requirements under TEC, Chapter 21, Subchapter J, do not apply, and the special purpose school district shall develop an appraisal system that contains the items in TEC, §21.351(a).

(10) TEC, §§25.08111 and 25.111-25.114, do not apply.

(11) The requirements of TEC, §28.004, to have a school health advisory council do not apply, but the special purpose school district shall:

(A) comply with the provisions of TEC, §28.004, with regard to the parameters of health education and curriculum materials; posting, notice, and grievance provisions; and consideration of related issues; and

(B) require that the advisory board solicit community and parental input and develop recommendations regarding the subject matter of TEC, §28.004(c)(1), (2)(A) and (D)-(H), and (3)-(6).

(12) Financial accountability and fiscal management under TEC, Chapters 39 and 44, shall apply as if the special purpose school district were a university charter school, and the special purpose school district's public funds must be maintained in a manner that allows auditing of the public funds separate from other funds.

(j) The provisions of this section apply to each special purpose school district's operation for educating students eligible for enrollment in Texas public schools who enroll in the state-funded special purpose school district. This section does not apply to a tuition-based program operated in tandem with the state-funded program. However, the school operations that include Texas students are subject to subsection (l) of this section.

(1) A parent of a Texas student may voluntarily decide to enroll a student in the tuition-based program.

(2) The special purpose school district shall biannually report student attendance in its state-funded school and Texas student attendance in its tuition-supported school. Information shall be provided to ensure that student participation does not disadvantage any student group from access to the state-funded school.

(k) Each special purpose school district shall submit to the SBOE by September 1 of each odd-numbered year an updated list by section of the TEC, Title I and Title II, with recommendations regarding which sections of the code should apply or not apply to the operations of its schools. The submission must compare the recommendations to the list last provided to the SBOE.

(l) If the special purpose school district declines FSP payment, the special purpose school district is authorized to charge tuition and is subject to:

(1) accreditation, academic assessment, academic and financial accountability, and interventions under TEC, Chapters 39 and 39A; and

(2) reporting requirements imposed by the Texas Education Agency.

(m) The parent university of each special purpose school district shall submit nominations for and establish an advisory board as soon as practicable, and the provisions of this section that require the special purpose school district to develop a policy apply beginning with the 2021-2022 school year.

Statutory Authority: The provisions of this §61.101 issued under the Texas Education Code, §11.351.

Source: The provisions of this §61.101 adopted to be effective October 25, 2020, 45 TexReg 7420.


For more information, email rules@tea.texas.gov.