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After months in limbo, Texas lawmakers took a step toward expanding and funding e-learning as the pandemic still demonstrates a threat to families who are not yet comfortable sending their children in the classrooms.
The Texas House passed Senate Bill 15 Friday night in a 115-3 vote. The bill will go to final reading and be voted on in the House before heading to the office of Gov. Greg Abbott.
The initial passage of the House bill will give some parents relief that there would be more e-learning options as the pandemic once again strains state resources. Hospitalizations and cases are increasing due to the more transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We understand that e-learning is not for all children, but we have heard many parents calling for a high-quality virtual option for their students, especially with the changing situation we are facing with COVID-19,” he said. the state. Representative Keith Bell, R-Forney.
On Friday, state data showed that while some Texas schools have not started classes, the number of cases of COVID-19 positive students reported last week exceeded last year’s high.
Proponents of SB 15 have widely touted it as a measure with enough railings to make sure students succeed while learning at a distance and to help those who might fall through the cracks. The bill would pay for e-learning by September 2023 and would give local school districts and charter schools the autonomy to establish their own e-learning programs. Lawmakers set a fall date of 2023 to allow them to review the issue during the next regular session.
Opponents of the long-term establishment of e-learning claim that students learn best in classrooms and cite the decline in standardized test scores last year, especially in districts that had most of their instruction in line.
The bill would allow for remote learning to be offered only to schools that received a C grade or higher in the most recent round of state responsibility grades. No more than 10% of the district’s student population could enroll online and schools could force students to return to classroom learning if they do not meet academic standards.
School districts that, for whatever reason, do not offer e-learning, could be contracted with other districts to do so, depending on the bill. To reduce the pressure on teachers and schools, educators could teach only virtually or in person.
There were no real debates while the bill was on the floor of the House. Bell introduced an amendment, which was passed, to reimburse schools that already offer a virtual learning option, but that pay out of pocket or use federal dollars in aid.
During the summer, schools struggled to find out the learning options for families who did not want their children to return to the classrooms. At first, because the state did not move to fund e-learning as it did last year, many school districts dissolved online curricula.
But when it became apparent that the delta variant would make it difficult to return to normal in schools, especially for children under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated, school districts moved to offer other options, regardless of cost.
“Senate Bill 15 allows our districts to be innovative and flexible to meet the needs of our students,” Bell said during Tuesday’s committee hearing.
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