The Texas legislature approves the extension of e-learning and sends a bill to Governor Abbott

The legislature gave its final approval to a bill that expanded e-learning for Texas schoolchildren by 2023., but only for those attending schools that have a “C” rating or better in the state rating system. The bill will now go to the governor for signature.

Teacher groups opposed the legislation claiming that last year’s test data show that remote learning is inferior to face-to-face learning. Proponents of the bill acknowledged that for most children this is true, but said some are more suitable for remote learning and should have this option.

“We tried to put railings on it,” Houston Republican State Sen. Larry Taylor said in the Senate floor Monday afternoon. “We don’t want to continue programs that didn’t work for most of our students. This is only for those students who did well in this environment and who allowed them to continue with this option. “

Last year, many schools in Texas were allowed to resort to remote learning as a result of an order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Abbott chose not to renew his order this year, so schools are currently denied state funding for the classes they practically have. This bill would allow schools to receive this funding. It also prohibits schools from forcing teachers to teach virtually if they do not wish to.

Some schools across the state have already established virtual programs, even without access to state funding, Taylor said, and the bill will provide them with retroactive funding for those programs.

State-funded e-learning will have a 10% limit on a school’s overall enrollment. Students will only be able to take remote instead of virtual classes if they have performed well in standardized tests and have been present for more than 90% of their classes.

The new e-learning program is independent of a previous program that has allowed a small number of online schools for more than ten years.

Critics of e-learning, such as teacher groups, say the scores on standardized tests are worse for students learning virtually and that last year the schools that conducted them almost more often scored worse test scores than schools that did more face-to-face classes.

“We recognize that students are better served at brick-and-mortar facilities, period,” said Colby Nichols, a lobbyist for the Texas School Administrators Association, which supports the bill, last week. in an interview. “But it is the 21st century. Some students perform well in virtual environments and public schools must have the necessary skills to care for students as parents see fit.

“Frankly, this is something that the families in our districts are demanding.”

The legislature previously approved a study on the effectiveness of e-learning that will conclude in 2023, and if signed by Abbott, the legislature would have to decide whether to continue the program during its next regular session in 2023.

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