Note: Below is an excerpt of a piece that originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle. You can read the whole column here.
By Heidi Cruz
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the closing of schools across America – some for the rest of the school year. Public school leaders are scrambling to come up with ways to keep learning on track during this education shutdown. Like thousands of parents across Texas, Ted and I have been thrust into the role of part-time teacher. Unfortunately, some states have the ability to provide more resources to hardworking K-12 educators and parents than Texas does right now.
In Texas, we are hampered by a law enacted in 2013 greatly restricting full-time online education to just six of the state’s 1254 school districts and charter schools. Correctly, in response to the current pandemic, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath quickly issued a waiver overriding the 2013 moratorium. However, the state begins this battle with a small infrastructure of providers and courses.
The state of Texas created the Texas Virtual School Network in 2007 and robustly funded its early development to spur the review and approval of providers and courses. In the 2010-11 biennium, the state of Texas funded the Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN) at $10.5 million a year so they could review and approve new courses. However, in 2013, the state effectively banned new providers of full-time virtual education, including almost all of the state’s public school districts.
Cruz is chairwoman of the Texas Federation for Children, a project of American Federation for Children, a 501©(4) organization, which is the nation’s leading organization seeking to empower families, especially lower-income families, with the freedom to choose the best K-12 education for their children.