It’s not too late to submit an expansion amendment effective for the 2017-18 school year, but time is running short. The last day to submit an amendment to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is April 1, 2017. Since that day falls on a Saturday this year, the effective deadline date is actually Friday, March 31, 2017. Schools can expand no earlier than the start of the fourth full school year of operation. This restriction does not apply if the affected charter school has as its most recent rating “met standard” and is operated by a charter holder that operates other charter campuses and all of that charter holder’s most recent campus ratings are “met standard.” In addition, for any school to expand, the most recent rating for 90 percent of the campuses operated under the charter must be “met standard” under the standard accountability procedures and received a district rating of highest or second highest rating for three of the last five years with at least 75 percent of the campuses rated “met standard” and no campus with the lowest performance rating in the most recent state accountability ratings.

The charter expansion amendment request form is pretty straightforward and one form can be used for one or all of the four types of expansions that are set forth in 19 TAC 100.1033 including adding an additional campus, adding additional grade levels, expanding the geographic boundary of the charter holder, and increasing the maximum student enrollment.

To add an additional campus, the school must have an “E” (education) occupancy code or a statement verifying that this certificate will be obtained prior to serving students. The application addresses a number of questions that must be considered for an additional campus, including the number of students, the number of students in tested grades (must be 50 percent by the third year of operation), the proposed number of instructional minutes, what grade levels will be served, if the campus will need a new campus number, and the type of accountability (standard or AEA). If the campus will be under Alternative Education Accountability (AEA), the campus must meet AEA criteria and register to be an AEA campus.

To add additional grade levels, the number and percentage of students to be evaluated under the state accountability system must be included in the application. In addition, an educational plan including a scope and sequence and specific curriculum to be taught for the additional grade levels must be submitted. There is no specific format provided by the state for this requirement, but it’s a good idea to provide more detail than not enough.

If you are expanding your geographic boundary, you must submit evidence that an impact statement was sent to each school district that may be affected by the expansion. The impact statement form and a sample district notification letter can be found on the TEA charter school amendments page. Since the commissioner’s rules don’t specify who should receive the notification letter and impact statement form, a best practice is to send those to both the district superintendent and the president of the school board. These names can be found on AskTED. The evidence that the notifications have been made is in the form of certified mail receipts, which you will need to submit as part of your expansion amendment.

To request an increase your maximum student enrollment, you must list your current enrollment and your requested maximum enrollment. You are only allowed to request an increase in your enrollment once during each calendar year.

As you complete your amendment requirements, remember that prior to April 1 you must convene your board to consider a charter holder board resolution, with printed names and signatures indicating that a quorum of board members voted favorably to amend the charter. As part of the resolution, you must indicate that the board has considered and approved a business plan and that a majority of the board considers that the proposed growth is prudent. The business plan is not submitted with the amendment request but which must be submitted to TEA within 10 business days if requested.

Finally, as part of the amendment you must submit an alphabetical list of districts in your current geographic boundary that may be affected by your request, evidence (certified mail receipts) that impact statements have been sent to each school district affected by the expansion request, a signed statement attesting that for the last three years no board member or employee has been deemed ineligible to serve due to instances of nepotism, conflicts of interest, or criminal history revelations, and evidence that your by-laws and articles of incorporation are current and on file with the agency. This can be accomplished by posting an up-to-date URL that links to your charter by-laws.

Again, the expansion process is not complicated, but amendment procedures can be tedious and require that you submit the proper documentation to TEA by the April 1 due date. That deadline is not flexible, so if you miss the date you’ll generally have to wait until the following year to submit a new amendment. Also, remember that things like changing the school or charter holder name, governance structure, articles of incorporation, bylaws, charter management company, admission policy, or educational program of the school are considered to be non-expansion amendments, and these amendments can be submitted anytime.

At TCSA, we’re more than happy to help any school with questions about the expansion amendment process. Please contact Bruce Marchand and we’ll help guide you through the expansion amendment process!