A district court judge ruled in favor of East Texas’ Azleway Charter School by issuing an injunction to stop the school’s closure in June until a trial can determine the constitutionality of Senate Bill 2.
The Travis County judge’s ruling, which came on Friday, prevents the Texas Education Agency from taking further action to revoke Azleway’s charter and suspends the hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings until after the trial set for Nov. 10.
“The children in our care and the children in the (school districts) affected all won today because the judge understood the issues and understood the consequences of the action that the commissioner was proposing and she cared,” Azleway school board President Tom DeWitt said.
Azleway had joined American YouthWorks, an Austin-based charter school, in a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency.
Both schools were among the six Texas charter schools set to close after the Texas Commissioner of Education announced in December he was revoking their charters, effective June 30, because the schools failed to meet certain academic and financial standards in three school years.
The criteria for revocation were established in Senate Bill 2, a law passed during the 2013 legislative session.
That law requires the commissioner to revoke the charter of an open-enrollment charter school if the charter holder received three straight years of unacceptable academic and/or financial performance ratings.
Azleway received an academically unacceptable rating under the alternative rating system in 2010-11 and a substandard achievement rating for financial accountability in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Azleway appealed the commissioner’s decision, but it was upheld after an informal Texas Education Agency review earlier this year.
The issue then went to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, where a judge heard testimony on Tuesday and planned to issue a ruling in 30 days.
That ruling is final and may not be appealed, according to the Texas Education Agency.
However, DeWitt said Judge Orlinda Naranjo’s injunction issued in Travis County’s 419th Civil District Court puts the administrative hearing process on hold.
The injunction will allow the parties to litigate the constitutionality of Senate Bill 2 and how it has been applied and interpreted by Texas Education Agency staff and their attorneys, according to an Azleway news release.
At this point, Azleway’s administration will move forward with plans for the summer extended-learning session and next school year, DeWitt said.
Azleway Inc. operates three charter school campuses: New Chapel Hill, Big Sandy and Willow Bend. In addition, the corporation operates boys’ homes.
Any decision by the state affects only the schools and not the boys’ homes.
Most of the 150 students who are at the charter school are there because a Child Protective Services judge assigned them to live at the boys’ home, which means they go to the charter school.
The average stay for a boy at the New Chapel Hill boys’ home and the charter school is about nine months, or one school year