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Texas Rep. Madden Touts Virtual School Bill

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

"The Virtual Classroom makes it possible for virtually every student in Texas to take virtually any course offered virtually anywhere at virtually any time," said Rep. Jerry Madden (R-Richardson) as he explained his HB 1445, his "virtual school" legislation.

Madden said the legislation will provide "the future" for the state's education system by creating and operating an education system through electronic means for the state's public schools. He said his proposal eliminates problems of adequacy, equity, availability, facilities, teachers and time.

He said the Virtual School Network will work as an "education safety net" to provide for the broad basis of education needs of students in Texas by making knowledge "available on demand" while taking geography out of the equation. He said the program will turn students' educational "dreams into reality."

Madden described the Plano school district's virtual school network and called it "very competent and capable," noting it is important to understand how the program relates to the E-Learning Initiative.

Kathy Galloway, Executive Director of Student Services in the Plano ISD, said the district began enrolling students in its e-school in 2002. Of the 3,320 students enrolled, there is a completion rate of 87 percent and a passing rate of 97 percent among those completions. The program has served students in 10 districts in Texas, 11 other states, and three foreign countries. She said the program includes 11 locally developed courses that can be accessed as part of a daily class schedule that can be worked on in or out of school.

Dr. John Fleming, who previously served on the Select Committee on Public Education, said the e-school program is like "building a patio," in that it is a really simple thing to do and three weeks in, one realizes it's enormous. Calling himself a "cheerleader" for technology in schools, Fleming said, "We have so badly botched the use of technology in our schools...and we've got an opportunity to keep Texas on the cutting edge of education." He called the Virtual School Network "nothing short of brilliant," but "nothing short of obvious."