A bill that would fund virtual learning for some students is on its way to the governor’s office for signing with overwhelming support from Texas lawmakers.
The legislation comes as school districts have worked to offer limited online programs to families who fear sending children back to campus as the highly contagious delta variant spreads throughout Texas and most school districts no. do not require masks. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Legislation moving to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office will temporarily allow districts to receive funding for virtual options.
Most districts offering such programs now pay for distance options themselves, as state funding for e-learning is not in place. Some districts have backed down from plans to offer virtual classes after a failed bill to fund such efforts in the spring.
Under the bill sent to Abbott, schools that received a C grade or higher in the state’s latest round of academic responsibility grades can offer distance education to students living in the district. Enrollment would be capped at 10% of the enrollment in a school system in 2021-2022.
Districts cannot receive money to offer e-learning to virtual students who failed STAAR or equivalent exams in the previous year, had an unexcused absence rate of 10% or more, or received grades less than a C in their basic courses.
“We are not promoting this for all students,” Senator Larry Taylor said Tuesday, R-Friendswood, the author of the bill. “We only promote it for students who have done well. “
This could potentially exclude a large number of students from funding. Almost 40% of Texas students failed their state math exam, and about a third failed their reading test. At Dallas ISD, more than 55,000 students failed or passed at least one standardized test last year. More students could be ineligible after taking into account core course grades and attendance records.
Over the past month, some Democrats have argued that legislative approval is not necessary to ensure that districts receive state funding for virtual education. The governor has the power to extend the funding, Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood argued this week.
“We needed a solution sooner,” Zwiener said. “We had the mechanism to propose this solution through the executive. “
The bill expires in September 2023, which means lawmakers must review the funding of the method of instruction at the next regular session.
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The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation on pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network , Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.