APPLICATION OF NEPOTISM EXCEPTION WHEN A COUNTY EXCEEDS POPULATION LIMIT
Case citation: Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. GA-1064 (2014).
Summary: The Commissioner of Education recently asked the Attorney General whether the nepotism exception found in Texas Education Code § 11.1513(g) for counties with a population of less than 35,000, still applies to an employee after the county’s population surpasses 35,000. Texas Government Code § 573.041 provides that “[a] public official may not appoint, confirm the appointment, or vote for the appointment or confirmation of the appointment of” an individual related to the public official within a prohibited degree. Education Code § 11.1513(g) provides an exception to the nepotism statute for counties with a population of less than 35,000.
According to the Commissioner, in one district, several at-will employees who are related to board members within a prohibited degree were hired when the county’s population was less than 35,000. However, now the population has exceeded that amount. Thus, the Commissioner asked whether those employees can continue their employment under the exception to the nepotism statute, Education Code § 11.1513(g).
Ruling: The Attorney General determined that an independent school district may continue to employ an individual legally hired under the nepotism exception after the population of the county in which the school district is located meets or surpasses 35,000. The plain terms of Texas Government Code § 573.041 prohibit the “appointment” of employees within prohibited degrees, not the ongoing employment of someone already appointed. Thus, an increase in population beyond 35,000 would not render invalid a previous legal hiring made under Education Code § 11.1513(g). Thus, an independent school district may continue to employ an individual whose initial hiring was exempt under Education Code § 11.1513(g) after the county’s population meets or surpasses 35,000.
CAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS USE COMMON CORE STANDARDS TO TEACH STATE STANDARDS
Case citation: Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. GA-1067 (2014).
Summary: The Chair of the Senate Education Committee asked whether a school district may use the Common Core State Standards Initiative (Common Core Standards) to teach the state standards established by the Texas Board of Education. The Common Core Standards are a national set of standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states may voluntarily adopt. Texas Education Code § 28.002(c), requires the State Board of Education (SBOE) to identify the essential knowledge and skills (TEKS) in each subject of the required curriculum that all students should be able to demonstrate. Education Code § 28.002(b-2), enacted in the last legislative session, directs that in doing so the SBOE may not adopt the Common Core Standards. The law provides that each district provide instruction in the TEKS at appropriate grade levels, but may not use Common Core Standards to provide instruction. Thus, the Attorney General was asked whether it was illegal for a district to use the Common Core Standards, for example, when instruction of TEKS overlaps with Common Core Standards.
Ruling: The Attorney General concluded that Texas school districts are required to provide instruction in TEKS adopted by the SBOE at appropriate grade levels, and pursuant to Education Code § 28.002(b-3). However, districts may not use the Common Core State Standards Initiative to comply with this requirement. According to the Attorney General, there is no violation of the Education Code when elements of instruction of TEKS overlap with Common Core Standards. While the Legislature was aware that frequent overlap between the TEKS and the Common Core Standards may exist, the law was intended to prohibit “outright adoption of national common core standards.” Thus, school districts must not use the Common Core Standards to comply with the requirement to provide TEKS, but will not violate the Education Code if there is overlap between the two.