Now, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is asking parents for a second chance, especially parents of children in the lowest grades.
During the regular session, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1697, which allows parents to opt for their children to repeat the last grade or retake a high school course. For the 4th grade and above, this provision will expire in 2022. For pre-K to the 3rd grade, it will be a permanent option.
In addition to restarting the grade, parents can also opt to have their child enroll in pre-K or kindergarten if the child was eligible to enroll last year.
The TEA notified administrators of the change on July 15, the day it took effect, and then released a public explanation of the bill on July 22. The press release especially encourages parents of children in the lowest grades to consider restarting.
“Given the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the 2020-21 school year, the Texas Legislature passed SB 1697 to give parents new rights to determine whether their children should repeat a course or grade,” the TEA stated.
“This option is especially important to consider for the parents of the nearly 25,000 children in Texas who were eligible for kindergarten in School Year 2020-21, but who did not enroll, as well as for those kindergarteners who had a significantly disrupted school year.”
While school leadership may disagree with a parent’s choice to have a child retake a course or restart a grade, the parent has the ultimate say. If a district disagrees, it must convene a committee made up of the student’s principal, parent or guardian, and teacher to discuss the student’s academic progress. Regardless of the committee’s thoughts, the parent will then decide whether or not the student repeats the year.
Early enrollment trends in October 2020 persisted to 2021: a 3 percent decline in public school enrollment across Texas, matching national data. A sharp rise in the use of an online tool to start the home school process forecasted this trend before last summer ended.
According to TEA data, kindergarten and pre-K experienced the sharpest enrollment declines. Texas public schools educated 55,000 fewer pre-K children in 2020 than in 2019 — a 22 percent drop. Though considerably narrower, the decline in kindergarteners was second-biggest with 24,000 fewer students in 2020.
Since the money that the state allocates to local districts is tied to attendance, the enrollment drop would normally have had a hard financial impact on school budgets. However, the state adopted a hold harmless policy over the last school year, pledging to keep schools funded at their pre-pandemic levels.
Parents who wish to take this option must inform their school in writing before the start of the school year.
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