Making virtual school an option for Texas kids

When a once-in-a-century pandemic hit America, most public schools were unprepared. As many parents remember, most of the students were home alone as school districts frantically tried to create an online platform to further educate our children.

Fortunately, for parents who had already chosen virtual online schools for their children, it was school as usual. Our children continued to receive the high quality education that we expected from our virtual schools. This was also the experience of parents in Texas with children enrolled in a full-time virtual school. While their peers suffered from the failure of their district’s emergency distance learning attempt, the virtual students lacked nothing in their education, as their schools and curriculum were designed for this method of learning. learning. Their teachers have also been trained to effectively teach and engage students in an online classroom environment. The big difference between the emergency distance learning districts rushed to provide and the platforms already built and used in full-time online schools is not in dispute. As the National President of a parenting organization dedicated to providing children with various public options, including virtual learning, I can say that parents in states across the country need choices to meet the unique needs of their children.

But it seems the education lobby, made up of special districts and interests, including teachers’ unions, wants you to forget about the perks of virtual – a little bit of short-term memory loss. They are pushing to attack all full-time online schools through State House legislation, HB 1468. But, an amendment to this bill, called the Parent Empowerment Amendment, could fix this problem and put parents in charge of their children’s education. .

In its current form, HB 1468 reads like a ‘how-to’ book about eliminating the only schools that operated seamlessly during the pandemic. There is no other way to explain it when legislation proposes to limit a family’s virtual school options to their local district, although this program may not be best suited for. their child. They also want to eliminate the virtual option for Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, despite how good programs have proven to be useful for students in those years.

HB 1468 would also close Lonestar Online Academy, a K-5 school with a vigorous program run by the Roscoe Independent School District. This school has worked for over 1,500 students this year and already has over 500 new students enrolled for next fall. Why are we even considering closing a school like Lonestar, whose innovations have made it an ideal solution for many children?

Special interests mean telling parents what is best for their children. This is not how it works, and it never has been.

The education lobby is launching a bogus attack that only neighborhood districts can determine children’s special education needs, but testimonies from parents and students to state lawmakers have shown they had received senior services from an online school. As parents waited months in traditional districts to receive an Admission, Examination, and Discharge (ARD) assessment, which determines a student’s eligibility for special education, online providers assessed their children quickly and made plans with one-on-one instruction, as well as technology and regular small classes for students with similar needs.

Special interests have countered that kids who fail in a virtual school become a traditional district problem, but what we see most often are students thriving in a virtual school after years of being abandoned by their school. district. They’re often late, but when they have enough time and one-on-one attention in a virtual school, they start to thrive. The Senate Education Committee heard testimony from Grace, a Houston-area fifth-grader, and her mother, about the great difficulty they had in having her special education needs assessed at their district school. local, as well as an individual plan to meet those needs. A few weeks after enrolling in her online academy, Grace’s special needs were assessed and she was placed in a special program for dyslexic learners and now she is thriving.

As parents who believe in choosing the best public school option for our children, we also recognize that not all children benefit from full-time online schools, but that every child should have this. option available to him. The pandemic has shown that some children, including those who have been bullied, have special needs or a health problem, can thrive in a virtual environment.

Let us stop appeasing special interests. Texas does wonderful things for families in the area of ​​school choice which lets parents decide what is best for their children, not the education lobby. Education is primarily about children, not the adults who run the districts.

Let’s put our children first. Fix HB 1468 to work for Texas families. It’s what parents want and it’s best for students.

Weber is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition for Public School Options, a national alliance of parents that supports and advocates for parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children.


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Perry A. Thomasson