Klussmann Testifies on Innovation Zones Bill

A bill that would allow the creation of innovation zones within and between school districts, and which would have the flexibility of open-enrolment charter schools, was heard Tuesday (April 7) by the Senate Education Committee.

Superintendent Duncan Klussmann testified in favor of the bill, on behalf of Spring Branch ISD and also the Texas School Alliance, which the district chairs this year.

Klussmann told the panel about the SKY Partnership between Spring Branch ISD and KIPP and YES Prep charter schools, which operate programs in Landrum and Northbrook middle schools, with a YES Prep high school to open this fall at Northbrook High School.

He said that SKY is a true partnership, with the entities sharing best practices. Students in the KIPP and YES Prep programs are Spring Branch students who participate in the school’s elective classes and extracurricular activities.

 “Anything the state can do to encourage innovation is positive,” he said, adding that most state education policy is about compliance rather than innovation. Compliance “kills innovation,” he said, because it either requires or prohibits something.

For example, he said, creating a strategic plan must comply with so many state requirements that it becomes not a local plan at all. “What is there in public policy to encourage innovation?” he asked.

Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) asked Klussmann if he thought there were too many state requirements placed on local districts.

Klussmann said that if the Legislature makes a bad policy decision, it’s two years (the Texas Legislature convenes biennially) before that policy “can even be reviewed.” At the local level, he said, the board can call a meeting in 72 hours and make a change.

Klussmann said that a “basic piece” of state control is the uniform school start date of the Monday before Labor Day. He said that Spring Branch ISD principals in the SKY Partnership schools can’t align their school start dates with the charters, which typically start school in July.

Campbell said that she like the certainty of a uniform start date. Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) said that business interests, which push the uniform start date, are important for driving commerce and tax revenue.

Klussmann said that he appreciates that and that a balance is needed, adding that he thinks even if the bill is passed that very few districts will look at innovation zones.

The bill was left pending in committee.

by Rusty Graham


Post a Comment