A bill that would have allowed public schools in Texas to offer virtual learning options to families who chose them failed to make it to the governor's desk, meaning school districts statewide, including Austin ISD, are preparing to offer only in-person instruction this fall.

House Bill 1468, introduced by state Rep. Keith Bell, R-Forney, passed out of the Texas House in late April and was scheduled for a vote in the Texas Senate on May 30 before the end of the session.

However, according to the Texas American Federation of Teachers, the bill became "collateral damage" when House Democrats elected to break quorum to block Senate Bill 7 in a move that successfully stopped the controversial voting bill from passing.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he will call a special session to give lawmakers the opportunity to bring the election bill and "other priority items" to his desk.

Schools were able to remain fully funded in the 2020-21 academic year while offering virtual learning options thanks to a waiver from the Texas Education Agency. That waiver expires at the end of the year, and without an extension from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath or action from the Texas Legislature, public schools will no longer have the virtual schooling option starting in the fall.

Eddie Villa, a spokesperson for AISD, said the district is still evaluating its options alongside neighboring school districts to see if a renewal of the TEA waiver could become an option. In the meantime, Villa said, AISD is planning to welcome families back to campus in person this fall.

PTAs will no longer be able to fund staff positions in Austin schools

During the 2020-21 school year, parent teacher associations funded 31 full- and part-time positions at elementary schools in the district that included library clerks, tutors and a Spanish teacher.

That practice will end, district officials announced, in a decision AISD said will put all its schools on equal footing.

"We are a public institution. We exist to serve the public. The minute we become enablers of inequities, we cease to be a public institution and become private," Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said in a message posted to AISD's website May 21.

The Gullett Elementary School PTA was one of the groups that requested AISD delay the decision, arguing that its financial goals are carefully considered over a long period of time to fill the unmet needs of the campus.

"By eliminating the PTA funded positions, we would be completely disregarding the donor intent of our parents and the community," the PTA wrote.

AISD will pay for positions at five elementary schools that were previously PTA funded for the upcoming school year. One position that will transition funding from PTA to the district, according to the announcement, is a technology coordinator in the school's science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics lab.

Leslie Stephens, AISD's chief human capital officer, said anyone who previously worked in a half-time position or greater funded by a PTA will be able to apply for another vacant position and will go into the district's priority pool.

Austin ISD community members to walk the block in Dove Springs

Staff, teachers and volunteers will go door to door in the Dove Springs area of Southeast Austin on June 26 in an effort to inform families about the district's programs and bring them back to AISD schools. This is the second event this spring. The first was held in April in Northeast Austin, and another is scheduled for July 24 around Eastside Early College High School.

The event was originally scheduled to take place June 5 before it was postponed due to rain. Volunteers will meet at Mendez Middle School at 9 a.m. Schools the event will focus on around Dove Springs include Mendez as well as Houston, Langford, Perez, Palm, Rodriguez, Uphaus and Widen elementary schools.

Data shows more than 87% of the more than 16,000 students who transferred out of AISD in 2019-20 left to attend a charter school.