Michael Q. McShane

In the early days of this legislative session, course access seemed primed for success. Both the House and Senate held hearings for course access bills for which there were zero witnesses in opposition. The Governor made it clear that it was a priority of his office as well. One version of the bill passed the House, and the other made it out of committee in the Senate. And then . . . nothing.

It is no secret that the Missouri Senate is a tumultuous place in these waning days of the legislative session. But as the final days of the calendar tick away, it’s looking increasingly likely that course access isn’t going to happen this year.  This would be a shame, for several reasons.

First, a course access program would address a serious problem in our state. As we have reported for some time now, hundreds of districts in our state have zero students enrolled in AP classes or advanced math and science classes. Other districts lack access to quality career and technical education because they simply don’t have the capacity to offer such programs. Course access could help solve this problem and amplify what smaller schools and school districts are doing to try and meet the needs of their students.

Second, it would help bridge the urban/rural divide. Education policy debates in the state often break along urban and rural fault lines. Rural folks think that the state is too narrowly focused on Kansas City and St. Louis, and to be honest, this is often a fair assessment. A program designed specifically to help rural school districts (though urban and suburban students would benefit as well) could help establish common ground across the state.

Finally, passage of course access legislation would be an example of bipartisan comity that the education policy community could build upon in the future. In our polarized times, there is less and less that unites people across the political spectrum. Education policy is not spared from this trend. Course access is an issue to which legislators on both sides of the aisle have contributed their support. It would be awful to squander that.

All is not lost. The legislature, and particularly the Senate, still has time to consider the course access bills before it.  Here’s hoping they make use of their final days to score a big win for students, our state, and our political culture.

About the Author

Michael McShane

Mike McShane is the Director of Education Policy for the Show-Me Institute. He is a former high school teacher and earned his PhD in Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to the Show-Me Institute, Mike worked at the American Enterprise Institute as a research fellow.