Texas school districts can continue planning virtual class options this fall after the Senate approved a key piece of legislation on Wednesday, according to a report by the Dallas Morning News.
Though it has not yet become law, the legislation passed the Senate 27-4, allowing local districts to operate online schools while receiving funding in the same manner as brick-and-mortar campuses, the Dallas Morning News reported.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the bill arose after the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that though the majority of students perform better while learning in a classroom, some students thrived in online school.
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The House still must sign off on the changes before the bill can reach Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, the Dallas Morning News reported.
However, the Dallas Morning News reported that the legislation is contingent on students' performance in a virtual environment.
Local officials can force the students to return to the classroom if the performance is poor in an online setting, and only districts that receive a rating of C or better in the state’s academic accountability system can offer virtual courses.
Under the legislation, teachers cannot be required to teach online and in-person at the same time, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The Senate version of the legislation was amended to expire in 2027 so that lawmakers may reevaluate how the system is working in a few years.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the legislation initially sought to cap online enrollment at 10% of a district’s population, but the amendment raised it to a quarter.
Students in a virtual school would still be allowed to participate in University Interscholastic League activities, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Under current state law, only districts that operated an online program before 2013 can run full-time virtual schools and qualify for complete funding.
Seven such programs, known as the "Texas Virtual School Network," are currently operating in Texas, and students from all over the state can enroll.
Education Commissioner Mike Morath waived these rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but his action is set to expire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
This bill would not change regulations related to the statewide network, the Dallas Morning News reported.
To read the full report on The Dallas Morning News, click here.