Some changes are in store for virtual learning in the state of Texas if Governor Perry signs HB 1926. This bill recently was passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature. It makes some significant changes to the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN). Below is a summary of some of the changes.
Funding and Course Provider Selection
- The bill added two more ways a school district or open-enrollment charter may deny paying for a student to take a course via the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN):
- The district offers a substantially similar course
- A student wants to take more than three year-long courses during any school year via the TxVSN
- A student may elect to take more than three courses within a year at his or her own expense.
- The maximum cost was left unchanged by the bill. It is currently $400 for a single course or $4,800 for full-time enrollment.
- The bill establishes that funding for full-time, online programs is only available for programs that were in existence on January 1, 2013.
- A school district or open-enrollment charter is given the discretion to select a course provider within the TxVSN for a particular course for their students.
- The bill stipulates that nothing in Chapter 30A (education code) entitles a student who is not enrolled on a full-time basis in a school district or open-enrollment charter school to the benefits of the Foundation School Program.
- TEA is required to create a system in which districts may list distance learning courses that they offer and is seeking to inform other districts of the availability of these courses. The commissioner is not able to set the price for the courses. It appears these courses would not be offered through the TxVSN.
- Additional reporting requirements for course providers are established in HB 1926. The course providers must provide the following information for the administrative authority to list on their website:
- The entity that developed and the entity that provided a course
- The course completion rate of each entity
- The aggregate student performance on an assessment for a specific course
- The aggregate student performance on all assessment instruments administered to students who completed the provider’s courses
- Any other information determined by the commissioner
- The bill requires a school or open-enrollment charter to provide parents with a written notification of their TxVSN policies once a year.
- The bill requires TEA to develop a comprehensive course numbering system for all courses offered through the TxVSN.
- A nonprofit or private entity will be allowed to offer courses through the TxVSN if they possess prior successful experience offering online courses for middle or high school students, have demonstrated student success in course completion and performance, and they meet all the requirements established by the administering authority.
- Only school districts or open-enrollment charters may award credits or diplomas.
- Open-enrollment charters may be course providers in the TxVSN if they are rated acceptable or higher and may only serve students within their service area. However, they are able to offer courses outside their service area if they have an agreement with the attending student’s district.
- The state has the authority to enter into a reciprocity agreement with one or more states to facilitate expedited course approvals as long as the courses meet the state curriculum requirements.
- A course provider may not offer inducements such as equipment or anything of value to entice a student to take a course via the TxVSN.
- The definition found in 20.U.S.C. Section 1001 is to be used when establishing a higher education institution as a course provider.
- The bill requires the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to conduct a broadband study to determine the network capabilities of each school district.
- Based on recommendations in SETDA’s Broadband Imperative