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State Funds e-Learning for Schools

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2020-21 School Year may Open in Virtual Format

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state of Texas, it is looking more and more like the 2020-2021 school year will begin like the way the 2019-2020 school year ended.

While there has been no official announcement yet, it’s starting to appear as if the school year will start in a distance learning, virtual format as opposed to in-person instruction.

The state of Texas took a step in that direction on Friday afternoon, July 17 with the allocation of $200 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The funding, according to the governor’s office, will be used for “… the purchase of eLearning devices and home internet solutions to enable remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic for Texas students that lack connectivity.”

The TEA, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, will purchase and distribute devices, hotspots, routers, and more based on specific needs identified by local education agencies (LEAs). The funding would be used to establish a reimbursement program with a matching fund component tied to locally controlled Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) or LEA local funding.

“As school districts delay the start of in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19, it is essential that we work to provide Texas students with the devices they need to connect and communicate online for classroom instruction. As we continue to combat COVID-19 in Texas, we are committed to providing reliable and effective solutions that will help students academically succeed while protecting public health,” the governor said.

Texas House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Bonnen added, “The onset of COVID-19 has yielded unprecedented educational challenges in the State of Texas, and the embrace of new technologies and virtual learning methods will be instrumental in our effort to provide quality instructional continuity for all students. This funding will go a long way to close existing technology gaps and improve connectivity statewide, and in doing so, our students will be equipped with the tools needed for success in the upcoming school year.”

State Senator Juan Hinojosa, one of the driving forces behind this initiative, commented, “No child should ever be denied the ability to achieve his/her dreams simply because he/she does not have technological devices or internet access. Education is the great equalizer and while that will look different in the near term, a move to distance learning to protect students and teachers can only be effective for all learners if they all are able to actively learn and participate. Today’s actions by the Governor and TEA will move us toward this goal of ensuring every child has equal access to the tools and resources necessary to achieve a high-quality education.”  

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.   

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