School districts across North Texas are looking for options as a clear path to virtual learning appears to be blocked.
Monday marked the final day of the Texas Legislative session, effectively dissolving any hopes of passing House Bill 1468, which would have expanded online learning in Texas and allowed for full funding to school districts, during the session.
The state had previously not funded school districts for remote learning, although it granted a waiver for the 2020-21 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a Facebook post written by Frisco ISD’s Government Affairs department on Tuesday, the bill went through a conference committee, which completed its work Saturday night 25 minutes before the deadline.
The senate approved a compromised version of the bill late Sunday afternoon, the district department stated, but the house was not set to hear the bill until late Sunday night.
“At around 11 p.m. on Sunday night, before the bill had been considered, the House adjourned because a quorum was no longer present,” the district department stated. “The deadline to pass bills was midnight that night, so when House members left the floor an hour prior to the deadline, they effectively ended the session killing all bills that had not yet been approved, including HB 1468.”
Officials from local school districts, including Lewisville ISD, said they aren’t sure what the next steps will be.
“We are still working to determine what is possible,” said Deputy Superintendent Lori Rapp.
What is clear is the value remote learning has had for many students this past year.
“Virtual learning is an option we know families are interested in moving forward,” Rapp said. “We believe school districts should have the opportunity to meet the needs of all the students we serve and receive full funding those students, whether they attend in person or virtually.”
Rapp said approximately 1,000 students had expressed an interest in virtual learning for 2021-22.
There is a possibility the Texas Legislature having a special session this summer, but only items Abbott puts on the agenda will be considered. Rapp said the district doesn’t have any specific information about whether virtual learning would be on the agenda.
Other districts are hopeful something changes soon as well. Frisco ISD announced last month it would introduce a Virtual School as its latest “School of Choice” beginning in the fall.
“The permanent, full-time Virtual School is being planned to serve students in grades 3-12,” Superintendent Mike Waldrip stated in a letter to the community in May. “Students who have thrived with virtual learning will continue to find success with this new school, and we hope it will provide the flexibility many families seek as we move forward.”
However, other districts won’t be impacted much if a bill isn’t passed for virtual learning. Coppell ISD, for example, announced in May it will return to full face-to-face learning and that virtual learning won’t be an option.