Republican candidate for governor Greg Abbott has released the third plank in his campaign education platform. Abbott is calling to increase funding for the state's Virtual Schools Network and awarding schools with grants to increase online learning.
During a campaign stop in Tyler, Abbott announced that as governor he would advocate taking $4.2 million from the state’s general revenue to boost enrollment within the Texas Virtual Schools Network, especially at school districts with a D or F rating.
His plan also calls for changing state law so that students wanting to take a course online rather than in class could do so; schools can currently deny a student’s enrollment if it offers a similar in-class course.
“Texas students and parents should be able to determine if enrolling in an online class would better benefit that student,” Abbott wrote.
Abbott said he would also develop innovation grants for schools districts that have created a blend of digital and in-class learning models.
It’s that component of the campaign platform that has Clay Robison with the Texas State Teacher’s Association worried.
"It picks winners and losers. In other words, anytime you put a grant in place it’s selective," Robison said.
He said what schools need is completely different than the Abbott plan:
"What we need is a more adequately funded public education system that increases the learning opportunities, access to computers, online learning for every child”
Robison said online classes shouldn't be a supplement to traditional classrooms and they shouldn’t replace the teachers.
Abbott’s plan would have all school districts competing for ten of these grants that range from $250,000 to $650,000. The plan also calls for the creation of another grant program estimated $100 million each biennium to provide underperforming schools with the funding needed to provide low-income students access to technology.