Bob Onder: Putting Students First, Not Systems First, in Online Education | Guest columnists


By Bob Onder

Since schools first closed in-person classes last spring, many families have found themselves frustrated and their children struggling as their local schools attempt to provide online learning. These families deserve to know that they have a viable alternative: they can access national virtual education programs for free. Unfortunately, a systems-oriented attitude prevents many families from receiving this information and the support they need to choose it.

A national celebration supporting school choice takes place next week. This is an opportunity to remind families that they deserve the power to choose the learning program – whether through access to Missouri courses and the virtual school program, a district public school, the home schooling or any other option – which best suits their child’s needs.

In 2018, I sponsored the Virtual Education Legislation that established the Missouri Course Access Program. Legislation, which then-Gov. Eric Greitens enacted the law, said the state department of elementary and secondary education should automatically approve existing virtual schools that are already operating in the state. The law also made it clear that local school districts could only refuse requests for free online classes through the Access Program if the district determined that “enrollment … is not in the best educational interest of the student. “. In other words, parents – not state bureaucrats within the state education department or local school district officials – should determine their child’s educational program.

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