Charter FIRST Rating: Notice and Public Hearing

Charter FIRST Rating: Notice and Public Hearing

November 10, 2021 | Financial Management

Charter FIRST is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST), which is detailed in Texas Education Code 39.082.

The purpose and goal of having a financial accountability rating system is to ensure that open enrollment charter schools continually strive to improve the management of their financial resources and provide transparency and openly report results to the general public. Not achieving an acceptable rating (score) on your Charter FIRST report could have some negative implications on your charter school such as the revocation of your charter, it can affect the ability to renew your charter, or cause TEA to order a hearing to be held before the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee at which the board president must explain the school’s low performance and/or lack of improvement.

A charter school’s FIRST rating is also a consideration for assigning accreditation statuses to charter schools.

The 2020-21 Final Charter FIRST ratings based on fiscal year 2020 data are now available and can be found here: 

The rating was determined by the indicators specified in 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) 109.1001(f).

New Information for 2020-2021 Ratings

The following new indicators will appear in your 2020-2021 rating results!

  • Indicator 6: Average Change in Net Assets
  • Indicator 10: Budgeted to Actual Revenues
  • Indicator 13: Debt-to-Capitalization Percentage
  • Indicator 16: Actual ADA vs. Estimated ADA
  • Indicator 20: Transparency – Required Financial Postings
  • Indicator 21: Serving Students within Geographic Boundaries (not being scored)

Public Hearing Requirements

Within two months of the release of final scores, your charter school must announce and hold a public hearing to distribute a financial management report that explains your charter’s FIRST rating and performance under each indicator. The community must be notified in writing (via newspaper or other electronic means) of the meeting and it must be published no more than 30 days and no fewer than 10 days before the public meeting. The public hearing must be held at a location in the charter school’s facilities and can be combined with a regular scheduled board meeting. In addition to other notices required by law, the board must give notice of the hearing to owners of real estate property in the geographic boundaries of the charter and to parents of the charter school’s students.

Final Charter FIRST Rating and Required Hearing Reporting

This hearing will be held to distribute a financial management report that explains the schools rating and its performance under each indicator for the current and previous years.

This report must also include:

  • Copy of the Superintendent’s current employment contract
  • A summary schedule of expenditures/reimbursements paid on behalf of or received by the Superintendent and each board member
  • Charter school’s credit card expenses incurred by the Superintendent and each board member
  • Fees received by the Superintendent for outside entity professional consulting services
  • The total dollar amount per Board Member of business transactions with the Charter School
  • The total dollar amount of gifts received by executive officers and board members that had a value of $250 or more.

In addition, we encourage charter schools to include supplemental information or an additional report of any special circumstances that may have impacted the score of one or more indicators.

For full requirements related to the report and meeting, see 19 TAC §109.1001(q).

Special COVID-19 Update

In lieu of an in-person hearing, your charter may hold a virtual hearing. Per TEA’s notice here Official Notification of the 2020–2021 Release of Final FIRST Ratings | Texas Education Agency, “A district or charter school may hold a virtual hearing and take virtual testimony in conformance with COVID-19 resources and guidelines published by the Office of the Attorney General and Texas Department of Information Resources. TEA will consider a hearing held in conformance with such resources and guidelines as compliant with the hearing location and participation requirements of 19 TAC §109.1001(q)(4). The district must, however, continue to follow all other hearing-related and notice requirements of the rule.”

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