Texas indeed faces barriers to the provision of a digital learning environment for all children. Fortunately, many of them reside in Texas’s own statutes.
Though the competitive market for learning products blending digital materials and in-person instruction has existed for some time, and indeed been encouraged by state programs such as House Bill 3’s Blended Learning Grants, the competi- tive market for the kind of exclusively virtual instruction that the state now requires has stagnated. Only 8 districts out of approximately 1,200 are allowed to provide virtual full-time instruction as part of the state system; 6 of them currently do so. Before school closures in the spring of this year, 9 of nearly 9,000 campuses were authorized to operate virtually. Most districts in Texas are offering digital instruction of some kind to students for the 2020-21 school year. Without legislative action, all but 8 of those programs must abruptly end after the close of this school year.
Moreover, the only district that was offering a full set of distance programming to Texas students in all grades was TTU K-12, a special purpose district operated by Texas Tech University. If Texas is to create a vigorous system of distance educa- tion—one that can be used in future disruptions or as the modality of choice for students who prefer it—it must allow for a robust system of district-based, community-centric virtual education.