Learning Curve: Virtual School Off to a Bumpy Start

With the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down schools for several weeks or longer, educators are scrambling to replace traditional classrooms with virtual or online learning. But so far, many of these programs aren't passing the test. A new survey from Common Sense Media finds 41 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 had not attended an online or virtual class as of the end of March. For public school students, the number who haven't been in a virtual class rose to nearly 50 percent.

The rough rollout of virtual schooling highlights a particular issue for Texas schools. Emily Sass, education policy director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), recently appeared on KTRH's Michael Berry Show to discuss why Texas schools were completely unprepared for virtual learning. "What's weird about Texas is we actually have laws on the books that prevent school districts from having this very kind of (virtual learning) program under normal circumstances," said Sass.

Sass explains that a 2013 Texas law only allowed the expansion of virtual learning programs for the small number of districts that already had them. "The only way that districts are able to do the remote learning is through waivers," she told the Berry show. "Otherwise, the way we're doing school right now would technically be illegal under Texas state law, in almost all districts."

Sass and the TPPF are calling on Texas lawmakers to expand virtual learning programs to all districts that want them, so schools are better prepared for a situation like this in the future. "Right now, only a half-dozen out of 1200 districts in the state of Texas can do virtual learning without a waiver...the rest don't have that option, and they need it right now," she told the Berry show. "It just doesn't make sense and it's not fair to the districts in Texas not to have that flexibility, for those that want it."

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