Summary of Public Comments and Agency Responses Related to Proposed Revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 89, Adaptations for Special Populations, Subchapter EE, Commissioner's Rules Concerning the Communities In Schools Program
PERFORMANCE MEASURES AND LOSS OF FUNDING
Comment: Communities In Schools (CIS) of East Texas, CIS of South Central Texas, and CIS of Texas Association commented that as the Texas Education Agency (TEA) promulgates rules related to accountability of CIS programs at the local level, the agency should take into account the type of students being served by CIS programs. The same entities also suggested that TEA should base its performance standards upon the performance expectations put forth by school districts for CIS programs, based on local needs and interests.
Agency Response: The agency agrees. As specified in §89.1511(b), all performance standards related to academic achievement, attendance, behavior, dropout rate, graduation, and promotion/retention will be established in each local CIS program's grant application each year. Each local CIS program will establish these standards, in coordination with the agency, based on the state's goals and objectives and the local program's prior year performance. One exception to this is the performance standard related to the number of case-managed students served. This performance standard is established by the Legislative Budget Board.
Comment: CIS of East Texas, CIS of South Central Texas, and CIS of Texas Association commented that the agency should clearly define how CIS program funds will be redistributed should a local program's grant award be revoked or non-renewed.
Agency Response. The agency agrees. Language in §89.1503(d) was modified at adoption to clarify that should funds become available because of loss of program funding or grant revocation, the TEA may designate an amount of the increase to be reserved for replication and/or expansion. In addition, §89.1511(d) was modified by adding new paragraph (4) to specify that revoked funds may be used for CIS program replication and/or expansion in accordance with §89.1503(d). Section 89.1511(d) was also modified by adding new paragraph (5) to specify that a program whose grant has been non-renewed or revoked is eligible to apply for replication funding in accordance with §89.1503(d) after one year from the fiscal year the grant was non-renewed or revoked.
FUNDING FOR EXPANSION OF PROGRAMS
Comment: CIS of Southeast Harris County, CIS of Bell-Coryell Counties, CIS of Brazoria County, CIS of Central Texas, CIS of the Heart of Texas, CIS of Northeast Texas, CIS of East Texas, and Copperas Cove Independent School District (ISD) commented that the funding method described in proposed §89.1503(d)(2)(A) related to funding for the expansion of CIS programs was an inequitable method for allocating expansion funding and favored those CIS organizations that serve districts with large populations of eligible students. CIS of the Heart of Texas also commented that this funding method would reward CIS programs that serve small numbers of schools in as many large districts as possible.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. CIS programs that serve larger school districts have larger numbers of eligible students to be served and, therefore, warrant a larger amount of funding for expansion. However, several changes have been made to §89.1053 at adoption to help clarify how programs may use expansion funds when they are received. The agency has removed from subsection (d)(2)(A) the expansion funding calculation language regarding the relative proportion of the number of eligible students attending new school districts to be served because it is not possible to anticipate what new districts a program might serve. To address concerns that programs may receive funding for large districts they intend to serve but do not end up serving, the agency has added language in subsection (d)(2)(A) to clarify that funds provided to local programs for expansion must be used to serve the district(s) for which the program received expansion funding. The agency has also added language to subsection (d)(2) to clarify how the agency may determine and retain a funding amount for expansion of the CIS program.
Comment: CIS of Southeast Harris County, CIS of Bell-Coryell Counties, CIS of Brazoria County, CIS of Central Texas, CIS of Bay Area, and Copperas Cove ISD commented that funding for the expansion of CIS programs should not be awarded on a competitive basis.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. There are several options under §89.1503(d) for distributing expansion funds, including basing the amount to be awarded to local CIS programs on either the relative proportion of eligible students attending school districts served, the relative proportion of total case-managed students, or the relative proportion of grant funding allocated to programs. Issuing a competitive request for applications is another option for distributing expansion funds. The competitive grant application process is an appropriate method for selecting local CIS programs to expand into underserved areas of the state. This process allows local CIS programs to develop proposals and budgets that demonstrate how they will provide services to the targeted population, including how they will implement special initiatives to serve specific populations, maintain grant compliance, and achieve local performance targets.
Comment: CIS of Southeast Harris County, CIS of Bell-Coryell Counties, CIS of Brazoria County, CIS of Central Texas, CIS of East Texas, CIS of South Central Texas, CIS of Bay Area, and CIS of Texas Association commented that the base amount of funds received by local CIS programs should be increased to $300,000 for each program if the legislature appropriates additional funding for CIS.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. An equal base amount of funds, as determined by the TEA, will be awarded each year to local CIS programs, as specified in §89.1503(c)(1). The exact dollar figure for this base amount of funding is not specified in rule since funding may increase or decrease if the state appropriation for CIS increases or decreases.
Comment: CIS of Bay Area commented that §89.1503(c) needs further clarification so that local CIS programs can have adequate data to develop a funding plan to ensure that level service is maintained. The commenter stated that the funding criterion appears to be based on both a weighted proportion of financial resources and on the entire district that is served by a CIS organization.
Agency Response: The agency agrees. Section 89.1503(c)(3) was modified at adoption to clarify the calculation of the funding allocation. The TEA will make available estimated funding allocations in June of each year. In addition, §89.1503(c)(4) was modified at adoption to specify that the agency may limit the increase or decrease from the prior-year funding to an amount no more than 25 percent to minimize the disruption in services.
Comment: CIS of Bay Area commented that §89.1503(c)(2), which relates to the percentage of funding based on the relative proportion of case-managed students to be served by each local CIS program, should be set at 80 percent.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. Without an increase in funding, changing the calculation to 80 percent will significantly impact some local CIS programs' funding by more than 25 percent, causing a disruption in services. Providing a range between 50 and 80 percent allows the agency to respond to potential changes in state funding allocations for CIS without having to substantially change the base funding levels for local CIS programs. In addition, the agency has removed language relating to the ratio of grant funding allocation from §89.1507(c)(3) and added similar language to §89.1503(c)(3)(B)(iii)(III) to clarify how the number of eligible students served will impact local program funding.
Comment: CIS of Southeast Harris County, CIS of East Texas, CIS of Bell-Coryell Counties, CIS of Brazoria County, CIS of Central Texas, CIS of South Central Texas, CIS of Texas Association, and Copperas Cove ISD commented that the weighted financial resources allocation described in §89.1503(c)(3)(B) should not average the resources of all the communities within the CIS program area, as this method of calculation unfairly penalizes CIS programs that have one wealthy school district within an otherwise economically disadvantaged service area. Additionally, CIS of East Texas commented that 4 programs receive 70 percent of the funding set aside for the weighted financial resources allocation.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees that the averaging method delineated in rule is unfair. This calculation is based on the average taxable property value per weighted average daily attendance (WADA) in a program's service area. This calculation determines which local CIS programs are serving the poorest areas with the highest-need students.
Comment: CIS of Bay Area commented that §89.1503(c)(3) was not clear and that it was difficult to tell whether a program that serves a poor school district would receive funds.
Agency Response: The agency agrees. Additional language has been added at adoption to §89.1503(c)(3)(A) and (B) to clarify the calculation of the financial resources allocation. A local CIS program with a below-average wealth per WADA, as determined by taxable property values, WADA, and the number of eligible students at the campus level, will receive weighted financial resources.
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