AUSTIN (Nexstar) – A new Texas law provides funding to school districts that want or already have distance learning programs if their students have met certain prior learning criteria.
Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 15 comes into force Last week. In order for a school to qualify, its students applying to learn outside the classroom must have passed their STAAR exams, achieved a grade C or higher in core program courses, and not have more than 10 for cent of unexcused absences the previous year. In addition, the online school can only be offered to 10% of the total district enrollment.
Zeph Capo, president of AFT of Texas, said that, overall, the law would expand possibilities for virtual learning.
“A lot of our school districts wouldn’t have had the capacity to offer families a virtual opportunity,” he said. “Without this funding we had many of our larger school districts looking to make it work. with their ESSER funds. “
Brownsville ISD, for example, was not able to offer virtual learning before this law. A district spokesperson said about 3,600 students were eligible and so far nearly 2,500 have applied.
But Capo is worried about students who struggled with the chaotic STAAR exam in the 2020-21 school year, and who now may not be able to receive state funding to learn online.
“There are a lot of cases where kids may have a lower C average or not necessarily do well on the test, where having a virtual learning opportunity can actually help them catch up,” he said. he declared. “Almost every district told families that the test wouldn’t matter and that they didn’t have to worry as much about it this year. And in fact, what has happened is that it matters a lot now. It can make the difference whether your child can actually have a virtual education or not. “
Some districts like Austin ISD were planning to offer e-learning with or without additional state funding. If these students meet the academic requirements, these states fund their online learning.
Rebecca Jordan is one of Austin ISD’s teachers with a full distance class for the entire 2021-22 school year. She said she was unsure whether passing or failing STAAR was the best measure, but felt it was appropriate to have some sort of standards to ensure a child’s success in online learning. .
“I’ve seen students that parents really wanted them to be virtual, but they just couldn’t be successful. So I think it’s important to have some sort of assessment tool to see if they would be successful in this program, ”she said.
The law will fund virtual learning until September 2023, when lawmakers reassess the issue.