AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - Ninety-five public school districts sued Texas, claiming its illegally adopted yearly performance targets have resulted in more than two-thirds of the state's schools being labeled as failures this year.
Lead plaintiff Bridgeport Independent School District sued the Texas Education Agency, in Travis County Court.
Stemming from legislation enacted in 2005, the Texas laws, which require Annual Yearly Progress reports, are, essentially, copycat legislation based on President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Ostensibly enacted to provide "accountability," opponents have said that No Child Left Behind is a back-door way to funnel money to private and religious schools. More than one state commissioner of education has pointed out that a state's top-ranked school cannot make "annual yearly progress," and so could be declared "failing," and denied funding or even shut down, if, for example, its ranking drops from No. 1 to 2 and 3 over three successive years.
In their 55-page complaint, the Texas schools claim "defendants have by rule and by conduct applied and/or threatened to apply certain standards and procedures to the performance data of plaintiffs, in order to yield Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) statuses with serious consequences to the good name, fiscal independence, and discretionary decision-making authority of plaintiffs. These standards and procedures are defined as rules by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), but defendants' conduct and rules are ultra vires, and the rules are un-adopted, improperly adopted, and wholly irrational."
The schools say that the ability to determine their annual yearly progress status was never given to the TEA, and that "the Education Code is replete with explicit rulemaking authority language authorizing defendants to adopt rules necessary for the implementation of federal programs. But no such authority exists for the rules required to set AYP ratings standards. The rules are voidable.
"Defendants have engaged in rulemaking outside the requirements of the APA. An historic rise in AYP performance standards caused sixty-six percent (66%) of all Texas campuses to fail AYP standards in 2012. This rise in standards was accomplished through improper rulemaking. Key standards and procedures necessary for defendants to calculate an AYP status in 2012 were never even proposed in APA rulemaking at all! Defendants promulgated these rules on their web site, not in their rule, calling it a 'Bridge Study.' Without the standards and procedures promulgated in the 'Bridge Study,' no AYP statuses could be calculated or lawfully determined by defendants, and no consequences could flow to the daily operations of plaintiffs. The rules are voidable."
The schools seek a judgment that the TEA's AYP Guide is void, and an injunction preventing its enforcement.
They are represented by Jim Thompson of Austin.