Austin, TX – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), the two longest-serving members of the Senate Education Committee, passed Senate Bill 1861 out of the Texas Senate on a bipartisan vote, 28-3. SB 1861 is 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 bolted out of the Texas Senate 28-3 with bipartisan support. SB 1861, gives flexible high-quality virtual education options to families, students, and school systems across Texas.” 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 am thrilled that the Senate has passed this bill with such a resounding bipartisan majority, and I hope the Texas House will show the same level of support for it. With Senate Bill 1861, Texas is poised to lead the way in providing high-quality, innovative education opportunities for all students,” said Rex Gore, Chair of the Texas Commission on Virtual Education.
The Texas Commission on Virtual Education was created after the 87th Legislature (regular session, 2021) 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.
“The pandemic forced Texas, America and the world to figure out a way for our young people to obtain the education and skills needed to prepare them for the responsibilities of their adult lives. The problem was that few had a real road map to do so when these needs became apparent in real time,” said Senator West. “Now two years later, our work on the Texas Commission on Virtual Education has allowed us to lay out a blueprint on how virtual education can effectively be delivered, while taking into account the challenges faced by educators, students and parents. That’s what SB1861 does.” concluded Senator West.
The Texas Commission on Virtual Education was made up of 13 appointees by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker. The bill was passed out of the Texas Senate on April 18, 2023 and referred to the Texas House Public Education Committee on April 20, 2023.