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Texas Senate
April 23, 2003   
(512) 463-0300

Creation of Virtual Charter School Program Endorsed by Senate

Senator Craig Estes
Wichita Falls Senator Craig Estes recalls fond memories of the late Senator Tom Haywood during today's session.

Austin - The Senate sat respectfully before the family of the late Senator Tom Haywood during the reading of Senate Resolution 662. The memorial resolution, sponsored by Mount Pleasant Senator Bill Ratliff, paid tribute to the former Wichita Falls Senator who passed away in July of 2001. Several Senators stood up to share their fond memories of Tom Haywood and to pay their respects to his family, including Senator Craig Estes, who now represents Senate District 30.

Texas schoolchildren who are unable to participate in a traditional classroom setting would be offered another educational option under legislation approved by the Senate today. Senate Bill (SB) 933 would establish a virtual charter school program in an effort to increase flexibility and individualize educational opportunity for all Texas students. "Education should not be a 'one-size-fits-all' component of our society," said the bill's author Plano Senator Florence Shapiro. Virtual schools would cater to students with special needs, students whose families move regularly, gifted and talented students who excel beyond the pace of a regular classroom, and parents who want the flexibility of home-based learning for their children, according to Shapiro.

SB 933 would establish virtual public schools chartered through a public college or university that would provide state mandated curriculum and assess student performance regularly. A significant portion of instruction would be delivered through the Internet or in a virtual or remote setting. The bill was amended to limit the number of virtual charter schools to two with a combined enrollment not to exceed 2,000 students and to require a charter school to provide bilingual and special language program services.

Under Texas law, minors can receive judicial approval to have an abortion without notifying their parents. The Senate preliminarily approved of a measure today brought forth by Fort Worth Senator Kim Brimer that would require the Texas Supreme Court to establish a program to collect statistical information regarding the number of applications and appeals for these judicial approvals. Brimer allayed concerns that SB 331 will be used to evaluate individual judges and said that courts and minors will remain anonymous.

The Senate also passed SB 275, authored by Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson, which would abolish the Texas Department of Economic Development and transfer its primary economic development functions to an economic development office within the office of the governor. The department's current mission is to market Texas as a premier business location and tourist destination, provide financial, location, and export assistance to Texas businesses and communities, and serve as a central source of economic development information.

A second bill by Nelson, SB 280, was also approved by the Senate today. The legislation utilizes the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission's recommendation to continue the Texas Workforce Commission and modify several statutes. The two main functions of the agency are to oversee employment and job training services provided through local workforce development boards and to operate the state's unemployment insurance system.

Other legislation sanctioned by the Senate today include:

  • SB 381, by Victoria Senator Ken Armbrister, would exempt some restaurants from food wholesaler and manufacturer licensing requirements.
  • SB 624, by Houston Senator Jon Lindsay, would require voter approval under Senate Joint Resolution 30 before tax-backed bonds may be issued for the development of recreational facilities in Harris and Travis Counties.
  • SB 899, by Senator Kip Averitt, would clarify that the amount set forth for groundwater conservation district directors' per diems only applies to districts whose directors are entitled to receive a fee of office.
  • SB 1010, by Dallas Senator Royce West, would incorporate the conflicting provisions in Texas law commonly referred to as the Public Nuisance and the Common Nuisance statutes to eliminate any confusion in determining the appropriate statute governing a particular case.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, April 24, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.