Sen. Bettencourt and Sen. West file SB 1861 to Boost Virtual Education in Texas

Austin, TX – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) filed SB 1861 based on the bipartisan unanimous recommendations of the Texas Commission on Virtual Education. Senator Bettencourt and Senator West served on the Commission, which was chaired by Governor Abbott appointee, Rex Gore, during the 87th Interim.

“SB 1861 boosts virtual education and is based on bipartisan unanimous recommendations from the TX Commission on Virtual Education. In-person learning will remain popular for most students but SB 1861 helps those families, students, and school systems who are finding the best results with the flexibility of high-quality, virtual education options,” said Senator Bettencourt

SB 1861’s initiative is to increase access to high-quality, virtual education options to give families the freedom to choose the best modality for their child, ensure access to advanced courses where they are currently unavailable, and offer flexible learning models that promote work-based learning. This legislation will ensure learning continuity for students and schools in the face of known and future challenges, build educator readiness and skill to deliver virtual learning with excellence, create aligned and appropriate accountability and planning expectations, and establish adequate and equitable virtual learning funding mechanisms.

“I’m pleased to see the introduction of this bill that will bring important innovation to our education system to ensure it is built for the dynamic future of learning and work and position Texas as the national leader in high-quality virtual and hybrid education,” said Commission Chairman Rex Gore.

The Texas Commission on Virtual Education was created after the 87th Legislature (regular session) to make recommendations regarding the delivery of virtual education in the public school system and state funding for virtual education under the Foundation School Program. The Commission heard over 37 hours of testimony from 46 experts, district and school leaders, teachers, students, and parents across our State and country. The Commission determined that virtual learning is a powerful tool for meeting the individualized education needs of Texas students.

“Today I join my colleague, Senator Paul Bettencourt, as joint author of SB 1861 which will codify the recommendations of the Texas Commission on Virtual Education, of which I was a member. The proposed legislation will help develop the policy and processes for the delivery of virtual education in Texas’ public school system and the provision of state funding for virtual education under the Foundation School Program. The bill is the culmination of countless commission hearings aimed at increasing access to high-quality virtual school options to ensure families can choose the best modality for each student, ensuring course access and learning continuity for students, and curriculum and provider accountability. The bill filed is not the final version but a “work in progress” and I am committed to working to make the bill the best tool for all of Texas’ public-school students,” concluded Senator West.

Sen. Bettencourt & Sen. West are the two longest-serving members of the Sen. Education Committee. Ed Chair Sen. Brandon Creighton will hear SB1861.