AUSTIN (Nexstar): A new Texas law provides funding for school districts that want or already have remote learning programs if their students have met certain previous learning criteria.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott passed Senate Bill 15. In order for a school to qualify, students applying to learn outside the classroom must have passed the STAAR exams, obtained a C grade or higher in the core courses of the curriculum, and have a 10% unexcused absences the previous year. In addition, online schooling can only be offered at 10% of the district’s overall enrollment.
Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT, said the law will generally expand e-learning opportunities.
“Many of our school districts would not have had the capacity to be able to offer families a virtual opportunity,” he said. “Without this funding, we had several of our larger school districts that were figuring out how to make it work with their BEING funds.”
Brownsville ISD, for example, could not offer e-learning until this law. A district spokesman said about 3,600 students are qualifying and so far about 2,500 have applied.
But Capo worries about students who struggled with the chaotic 2020-21 school year STAAR exam and now could not receive state funding for online learning.
“There are many cases where children may have a lower than average C level or may not have done well on the test, if having a virtual learning opportunity can help them recover,” he said. “Almost all the districts told the families that the test would not matter that they should not worry so much this year. And, in fact, what did happen is that it matters a lot now. It can make a difference whether or not your child can have a virtual education. ”
Some districts such as Austin ISD planned to offer online learning with or without additional state funding. If these students meet the academic requirements, these state funds will help them with their online learning.
Rebecca Jordan is one of the Austin ISD teachers with a totally remote class throughout the 2021-22 school year. He said he is not sure if passing or failing STAAR is the best measure, but he believes it is appropriate to have some sort of standards to ensure children’s success in online learning.
“I saw students whose parents really wanted them to be virtual, but they just couldn’t succeed. So I think it’s important to have some kind of evaluation tool to see if they would be successful in this program, ”he said.
The law will fund e-learning until September 2023, when lawmakers will re-evaluate the issue.