Jefferson City, Mo. – If a Missouri student wants to attend a virtual school, it should be approved by the local school district, not the parent.
A major education reform package approved by the Missouri Senate will allow parents to decide if they want to transfer their students online to school. It also helps the funding dispute between convention and traditional public schools, and treats them more as equals.
“This is a good compromise that provides tangible results for the state of Missouri and education in the state,” said Senate Minority Leadership John Rizo, D-Independence. “I can not say enough positive things about how hard everyone really worked on it around the clock to try to do something that was beneficial to both parties.”
According to the Department of Elementary and Higher Education (DESE), there are about 20 arts in Kansas City and 17 in St. Louis. In the Kansas City area, as of 2021, there are 15,295 students enrolled in public schools and 15,209 in charter schools. On the opposite side of the country, there are 19,662 students enrolled in public schools and 12,338 students in charter schools.
Charter schools are independent public schools that do not have to comply with state regulations. Earlier this year, the House passed a bill to take funding for public schools and give it to charters.
“In the past, the big issue was funding,” Rizzo said. “They wanted to take a slice of funding from Kansas City and St. Louis, now instead of reducing their slice, we made the whole cake bigger.”
According to the fiscal note in the bill approved by the House of Representatives, approximately $ 8.2 million will be transferred from the public schools of Kansas City to the charter schools in the Kansas City area. In St. Louis, about $ 18 million will be sent to charter schools in the area from St. Louis City public schools.
“We basically decided to take the difference, the calculation of the difference, between funding in Kansas City and St. Louis between traditional publics and charters and basically roll that into the fund formula, so now the state will take on that part of the responsibility,” said Senate Majority Leader Caleb Roden (R. Columbia).
There are also some liability measures in the Charter Schools Bill, which require them to publish their test scores online. Board members must also live in the state of Missouri and the companies that operate the charter school must be non-profit.
“We wanted accountability and transparency and we were able to do a lot of these things in this bill,” Rizzo said. “This is a huge victory for people who have been opposed to charter schools for a very long time.”
Another section in the legislation would prevent school districts from being gatekeepers to virtual schools. As early as 2018, the General Assembly extended the access to online learning to kindergarten to 12th grade. The program is called “Access to a Missouri Course and Virtual School Program” or MOCAP. so.
“Everyone will have information in the process,” Roden said. “The parent makes the final decision if they think the virtual option is the right option. The virtual provider has the ability to say, we do not think we are the right option for a number of reasons.
Rodin said one of the concerns about the program is if a student leaves his online courses and returns to the local school district and then this school will start if there is a learning loss. He says liability measures have been activated to address this.
“There were about 6,000 children who applied and only about 600 were given access to the virtual program because they were the same local districts that made the final decision,” Roden said.
There are nearly a dozen virtual school providers in the country under MOCAP. As early as 2020, the State Board of Education set a time frame for school districts, requiring principals to respond to parents within 30 days of applying to enroll their students in MOCAP.
“The language we got into virtual schools is probably enough to alleviate some headaches, but I don’t think it will be with everyone,” Rodin said.
The bill needs one final vote from the Senate, which Rodin says could come as early as Monday.
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