Currently, Section 161.670 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri (part of a course access law passed in 2018) requires that parents of students who wish to enroll in the Missouri Course Access Program (MOCAP) request and receive permission from their local school district first. In the first two years after passage of this law, dozens of parents have been denied this permission and some have had to hire attorneys to get it. Districts were reluctant to give up students or funding to virtual education. That was then, this is now. With every public school in the state shut down and every student expected to learn virtually (if at all), we need to make immediate changes.
A scan of school districts across the state has revealed that, during the shutdown, far too many districts provided no coordinated or curated curriculum, and many of those that did simply distributed homework packets. Admittedly, shutting down every public school in Missouri was a massive shock to the system. Teachers were not prepared to completely change their approach to instruction. Many students and teachers lacked the necessary technology to make learning happen. Public education in Missouri has simply drifted into “hold harmless” territory—for teaching, for grades, for attendance, and for funding.
As school districts reopen this fall, parents need to be able to easily and seamlessly access options other than an in-person education at their child’s assigned public school (or whatever each school or teacher is able to provide for an alternate method of instruction). MOCAP has ten approved providers with full-scale virtual coursework already up and running. Any Missouri student who chooses should be able to directly enroll with any of these approved providers, and state funding for that student should directly follow them without going through the district first.
National surveys indicate that a significant percentage of parents plan to continue to have their child learn from home in the fall, which will actually help schools meet the conditions for reopening outlined by the Centers for Disease Control. There is absolutely no reason why Missouri parents should be forced to jump through an extra hoop during this time of crisis to obtain an education for their child.