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  H.B. No. 2209
 
 
 
 
AN ACT
  relating to establishing the Rural Pathway Excellence Partnership
  (R-PEP) program and creating an allotment and outcomes bonus under
  the Foundation School Program to support the program.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Subchapter Z, Chapter 29, Education Code, is
  amended by adding Section 29.912 to read as follows:
         Sec. 29.912.  RURAL PATHWAY EXCELLENCE PARTNERSHIP (R-PEP)
  PROGRAM. (a) In this section, "program" means the Rural Pathway
  Excellence Partnership (R-PEP) program.
         (b)  The commissioner shall establish and administer the
  Rural Pathway Excellence Partnership (R-PEP) program to
  incentivize and support multidistrict, cross-sector, rural college
  and career pathway partnerships that expand opportunities for
  underserved students to succeed in school and life while promoting
  economic development in rural areas.
         (b-1)  The commissioner shall ensure that agency employees
  assigned to administer the program have experience with or training
  in the procedures relating to a school district contracting to
  partner to operate a district campus under Section 11.174.
         (c)  The program must enable an eligible school district that
  has fewer than 1,600 students in average daily attendance to
  partner with at least one other school district located within a
  distance of 100 miles to offer a broader array of robust college and
  career pathways. Each partnership must:
               (1)  offer college and career pathways that align with
  regional labor market projections for high-wage, high-demand
  careers; and
               (2)  be managed by a coordinating entity that:
                     (A)  has or will have at the time students are
  served under the partnership the capacity to effectively coordinate
  the partnership;
                     (B)  has entered into a performance agreement
  approved by the board of trustees of each partnering school
  district that confers on the coordinating entity the same authority
  with respect to pathways offered under the partnership provided to
  an entity that contracts to operate a district campus under Section
  11.174;
                     (C)  is an eligible entity as defined by Section
  12.101(a); and
                     (D)  has on the entity's governing board as either
  voting or ex officio members, or has on an advisory body,
  representatives of each partnering school district and members of
  regional higher education and workforce organizations.
         (d)  The performance agreement described by Subsection
  (c)(2)(B) must:
               (1)  include ambitious and measurable performance
  goals and progress measures tied to current college, career, and
  military readiness outcomes and longitudinal postsecondary
  completion and employment-related outcomes;
               (2)  allocate responsibilities for accessing and
  managing progress and outcome information and annually publish that
  information on the Internet website of each partnering district and
  the coordinating entity;
               (3)  authorize the coordinating entity to optimize the
  value of each college and career pathway offered through the
  partnership by:
                     (A)  determining scheduling;
                     (B)  adding or removing a pathway;
                     (C)  selecting and assigning pathway-specific
  personnel;
                     (D)  developing and exercising final approval of
  pathway budgets, which must include at least 80 percent of the state
  and local funding to which each partnering school district is
  entitled under Sections 48.106, 48.110, and 48.118; and 
                     (E)  determining any other matter critical to the
  efficacy of the pathways; and
               (4)  provide that any eligible student enrolled in a
  partnering school district may participate in a college or career
  pathway offered through the partnership.
         (e)  An employee of a coordinating entity that manages a
  partnership under the program is eligible for membership in and
  benefits from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas if the
  employee would be eligible for membership and benefits by holding a
  similar position at a partnering school district. An employee is
  eligible for membership under this subsection if a partnership
  would be authorized to participate in the program, as determined by
  the commissioner, but for the maximum expenditure established in
  Section 48.118(f).
         (f)  A student enrolled in a college or career pathway
  offered through a partnership under the program is not considered
  for accountability purposes under Chapter 39 to have dropped out of
  high school or failed to complete the curriculum requirements for
  high school graduation until the sixth anniversary of the student's
  first day in high school.
         (g)  A school district proposing to enter into a performance
  agreement under this section shall notify the commissioner of the
  district's intent to enter into the agreement. The commissioner
  shall establish procedures for a district to notify the
  commissioner, including establishing the period within which
  notification is required before the school year in which the
  proposed agreement would take effect, and to provide any additional
  information required by the commissioner.
         (h)  In authorizing partnerships to participate in the
  program, the commissioner shall give priority to partnerships in
  which participating districts contract with a coordinating entity
  that has at least two years' experience or employs an executive
  officer with at least two years' experience managing college and
  career pathways under a performance contract. 
         (i)  Not later than the 60th day after the date the
  commissioner receives notification of a proposed agreement and all
  other information required by the commissioner, the commissioner
  shall notify the school districts whether the proposed performance
  agreement is approved and the partnering districts are authorized
  for participation in the program.
         (j)  The commissioner shall make grants available for use by
  a coordinating entity for a two-year period to assist with costs
  associated with the planning, development, establishment, or
  expansion, as applicable, of partnerships under the program using a
  portion of state funds allocated under Section 48.118 as well as
  money appropriated for that purpose, federal funds, and any other
  funds available. The commissioner may award a grant only to a
  coordinating entity that has entered into a performance agreement
  approved under Subsection (i) or, if in the planning stage, has
  entered into a memorandum of understanding to enter into a
  performance agreement, unless the source of funds does not permit a
  grant to the coordinating entity, in which case the grant shall be
  made to a participating school district acting as fiscal agent.
  Eligible use of grant funds shall include planning, development,
  establishment, or expansion of partnerships under the program. The
  commissioner may use not more than 15 percent of the money allocated
  for the grants to cover the cost of administering grants awarded
  under the program and to provide technical assistance and support
  to partnerships under the program.
         (k)  The commissioner shall adopt rules as necessary to
  implement this section, including rules establishing:
               (1)  requirements of a performance agreement between
  participating districts and the coordinating entity;
               (2)  the period during which a partnership under the
  program may operate after receiving commissioner approval and
  before a renewal of commissioner authorization is required; and
               (3)  performance standards for a renewal of
  commissioner authorization to participate in the program.
         (l)  This section does not prohibit an agreement between a
  school district and another entity for the provision of services at
  a district campus.
         (m)  The commissioner may accept gifts, grants, and
  donations from any source, including private and nonprofit
  organizations, for the program. A private or nonprofit
  organization that contributes to the program may receive an award
  under Section 7.113.
         SECTION 2.  Subchapter C, Chapter 48, Education Code, is
  amended by adding Section 48.118 to read as follows:
         Sec. 48.118.  RURAL PATHWAY EXCELLENCE PARTNERSHIP (R-PEP)
  ALLOTMENT AND OUTCOMES BONUS. (a) For each full-time equivalent
  student in average daily attendance in grades 9 through 12 in a
  college or career pathway offered through a partnership under the
  Rural Pathway Excellence Partnership (R-PEP) program under Section
  29.912, a school district is entitled to an allotment equal to the
  basic allotment, or, if applicable, the sum of the basic allotment
  and the allotment under Section 48.101 to which the district is
  entitled, multiplied by:
               (1)  1.15 if the student is educationally
  disadvantaged; or
               (2)  1.11 if the student is not educationally
  disadvantaged.
         (b)  Each year, the commissioner shall determine for each
  school district the minimum number of annual graduates of a college
  or career pathway described by Subsection (a) in each cohort
  described by Section 48.110(b) who would have to obtain not later
  than five years after high school graduation a postsecondary
  credential of value, as determined by the Texas Higher Education
  Coordinating Board based on analyses of wages and costs associated
  with the credential, including a degree, certificate, or other
  credential from credit and noncredit programs that equip students
  for continued learning and greater earnings in the state economy,
  in order for the district to qualify for an outcomes bonus under
  Subsection (c).
         (c)  In addition to the allotment under Subsection (a), for
  each annual graduate in a cohort described by Subsection (b) who
  obtains a postsecondary credential of value in excess of the
  minimum number of students determined for the applicable district
  cohort under Subsection (b), a school district is entitled to an
  annual outcomes bonus of:
               (1)  if the annual graduate is educationally
  disadvantaged, $1,500;
               (2)  if the annual graduate is not educationally
  disadvantaged, $750; and
               (3)  if the annual graduate is enrolled in a special
  education program under Subchapter A, Chapter 29, $1,500,
  regardless of whether the annual graduate is educationally
  disadvantaged.
         (d)  A school district is entitled to an outcomes bonus under
  each subdivision in Subsection (c) for which an annual graduate
  qualifies.
         (e)  A school district may receive funding for a student
  under this section and any other section for which the student
  qualifies. At least 80 percent of funds allocated under this
  section must be spent as provided in the budget adopted by the board
  of the coordinating entity.
         (f)  The total amount of state funding for allotments and
  outcomes bonuses under this section may not exceed $5 million per
  year. If the total amount of allotments and outcomes bonuses to
  which school districts are entitled under this section exceeds the
  amount permitted under this subsection, the agency shall allocate
  state funding to districts under this section in the following
  order:
               (1)  allotments under Subsection (a) for which school
  districts participating in partnerships prioritized under Section
  29.912(h) are eligible;
               (2)  allotments under Subsection (a) for which school
  districts that entered into a memorandum of understanding or letter
  of commitment regarding a multidistrict pathway partnership, as
  defined by commissioner rule, before May 1, 2023, are eligible;
               (3)  allotments under Subsection (a) for which school
  districts that have entered into a performance agreement under
  Section 29.912 with a coordinating entity that is an institution of
  higher education, as defined by Section 61.003, are eligible;
               (4)  allotments under Subsection (a) for which school
  districts with the highest percentage of students who are
  educationally disadvantaged, in descending order, are eligible;
  and
               (5)  outcomes bonuses under Subsection (c) for which
  school districts with the highest percentage of students who are
  educationally disadvantaged, in descending order, are eligible.
         SECTION 3.  Section 29.912, Education Code, as added by this
  Act, applies beginning with the 2023-2024 school year.
         SECTION 4.  (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b) of this
  section, this Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of
  two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by
  Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this Act does not
  receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes
  effect September 1, 2023.
         (b)  Section 48.118, Education Code, as added by this Act,
  takes effect September 1, 2023.
 
 
  ______________________________ ______________________________
     President of the Senate Speaker of the House     
 
 
         I certify that H.B. No. 2209 was passed by the House on April
  28, 2023, by the following vote:  Yeas 108, Nays 38, 1 present, not
  voting; and that the House concurred in Senate amendments to H.B.
  No. 2209 on May 15, 2023, by the following vote:  Yeas 120, Nays 23,
  1 present, not voting.
 
  ______________________________
  Chief Clerk of the House   
 
         I certify that H.B. No. 2209 was passed by the Senate, with
  amendments, on May 11, 2023, by the following vote:  Yeas 28, Nays
  2.
 
  ______________________________
  Secretary of the Senate   
  APPROVED: __________________
                  Date       
   
           __________________
                Governor