NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 11, 2005

Public school students in Texas may soon be able to take classes over the Internet. Although some Texas schools are already offering virtual courses to their own students or through agreements with nearby districts, Plano state Rep. Jerry Madden wants to expand that system and create a statewide Virtual School Network for students in grades K-12.

According to Madden's bill, House Bill 1445, the state's roll would be twofold: to serve as a clearinghouse, where districts offering virtual courses could link up with those seeking them; and to make sure all virtual courses conform to state curriculum standards.

The details of any financial arrangements would be up to the provider or consumer districts. The state would not set rates or handle the transactions. Other details of Virtual School Network include:

  • Money the state pays districts based on the number of students enrolled would continue to go to the district where the student lives, not the district supplying virtual instruction.
  • Teachers would not receive any extra pay under the bill, only the satisfaction of knowing they're helping students who otherwise would not have access to greater resources or varied curriculums.
  • Individuals, like home schoolers, would not be able to buy the virtual courses directly but could enroll in the course through their local district, which would then get the district additional state money.

Although the cost to the state will not be known until HB1445 is set for a committee hearing, which has not happened yet, an aide to Madden said the cost to taxpayer should be relatively modest.

Observers says Madden's bill looks like a simple and obvious way to help students throughout the state get a broader and, in some cases, better education than their home districts can provide.

Source: Editorial, "This Dot-com Would Make It: Virtual School Network worth pursuing," Dallas Morning News, March 4, 2005.


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