Is There Accountability for Virtual Schools in the Transfer Bill?
In Virtual Schools Offer Students Another Option, But Questions Persist, Post-Dispatch legislative reporter Alex Stuckey discussed the virtual schools provision in the school transfer bill.
House Bill 42 (HB 42) has sat on the governor’s desk since late May and would allow, among other reforms, students in unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts in Saint Louis and Jackson County a chance to receive a virtual or online education instead of transferring to a higher-performing brick-and-mortar school.
In addition to portraying the school transfer law as “largely unpopular” (a 2014 poll showed that 60 percent of Missourians favor the program), Stuckey didn’t present a full picture of the virtual school issue.
Take Representative Bill Burns’ comment cut from his speech during the legislative session, as quoted in the Post-Dispatch:
“This is a special interest bill,” Burns said. “This virtual education, why does it have to be a private company? Why couldn’t the school system be in charge of virtual education?”
Other education officials and lawmakers alike questioned the measure’s wording, fearing it lacked the teeth to hold for-profit virtual education programs accountable for a students’ performance, given that the district wouldn’t have the means of regulating which company is used.
These comments suggest that school districts, not taxpayers, should hold schools accountable. Isn’t school choice the best form of accountability, because parents have the ability to pick a school that fits their child’s needs? The idea that school districts should regulate a private company assumes that school districts know what’s best for kids, not parents. And, do we really want failing school districts regulating anything?
HB 42 may not be perfect, but components like the virtual schools provision may give more kids a chance to escape an antiquated system where zip code, not choice, determines educational outcomes.