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Reviewing a District’s Innovation Plan When Considering a Job

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 3/30/2023

By ATPE Staff Attorney Martha Moring

There are many reasons why public school educators decide to move to another district. Most commonly, this comes up as the school year draws to a close. There are many things to consider when deciding on a possible move, but one item that may not be on an educator’s radar is reviewing a district’s innovation plan.

An innovation plan is created by a local school district per the requirements set forth in Texas Education Code Chapter 12A. This chapter’s laws set out the process to become a District of Innovation (DOI) and the requirements of its innovation plan, which is sometimes called a DOI plan. In short, becoming a DOI gives traditional independent school districts much of the same flexibilities enjoyed by open-enrollment charter schools.

Although innovation plans do not allow public school districts to exempt themselves from the state assessment system, the state accountability system, federal requirements, and many other state law requirements, there are some common exemptions that may be important to an educator. For example, a DOI can adopt an innovation plan exempting the district from the laws requiring educator certification, planning and preparation time, duty-free lunches, teacher contracts, and class size limits, among many other things.

So before you sign a contract with a new district, you may want to review its innovation plan to determine if the district has exempted itself from the law requiring a 30-minute daily duty-free lunch for classroom teachers and full-time librarians, or if it has exempted itself from the law requiring a 22:1 student to teacher ratio in pre-K through fourth grade. This information may be the deciding factor in signing one contract over another.

You can find a list of the 932 current Texas public school districts that are Districts of Innovation along with links to each district’s innovation plan on the TEA website.