In the 88th Regular Session, transformative legislative proposals such as HB 681 by Rep. Keith Bell, SB 1861 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, and HB 4358 by Rep. Steve Allison would have had the potential to redefine public education in Texas, positioning the state as leaders in digital and virtual education.
Virtual and Hybrid Education Options
The proposed legislation, although unsuccessful in securing final passage in the final weeks of the legislative session, offered an innovative framework for districts and charter schools to extend high-quality hybrid and virtual education options in Texas. By enabling parents to work with schools in selecting the most suitable learning modality for their child, this legislation broadened the educational opportunities available to students, without undermining the role of traditional learning environments.
Flexible Learning Models and Advances Courses
The legislation was also designed to empower students with flexible learning models that foster work-based learning and apprenticeships, augmenting the impact of early college, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and PTECH models. Importantly, it ensured equal access to advanced courses across the state, resolving current access and hiring challenges, particularly in rural areas.
Commitment to Quality and Accountability
The legislation carried a commitment to quality and accountability, promising high-quality options for all students, stringent safeguards for students with special needs, and strong accountability measures for student outcomes.
Consideration for Educators
It also respected the needs of our teachers, prohibiting pandemic-style simultaneous instruction and guaranteeing optional participation in virtual teaching.
TCEA also believes in the importance of a Digital Teaching Micro-Credential for educators, which would recognize their expertise in virtual and blended education and student success within the existing continuing education framework.
The Urgency of Prioritizing Virtual and Digital Education Legislation
To develop an education system responsive to the future of teaching and learning, similar legislation to HB 681, HB 4358 and SB 1861 are vital, especially since there is a sunset date currently in the virtual education code that ends this school year. Without the aforementioned legislation, tens of thousands of students who have been choosing a virtual or hybrid option would immediately lose it.
Therefore, on behalf of TCEA’s 80,000 member educators, we strongly encourage Governor Greg Abbott to consider adding legislation including virtual and digital education to any upcoming special session.