Some Missouri school districts are pulling every trick in the book to deny families the right to choose the best educational option for their child. With a significant number of parents considering full-time online learning next school year due to COVID-19 concerns, this is not the time for school districts to deny school choice.
The Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP) was passed by the legislature in 2019, giving parents the option to enroll their child in virtual courses or full-time online public school programs. A provision in the MOCAP law allows the student’s resident district to deny enrollment if they can demonstrate that virtual education is not in the student’s best interest.
Sounds like an invitation to protect the status quo
Indeed it is. In a growing number of cases, resident school districts have undermined the fundamental purpose of the law and abused the veto authority provided under MOCAP to wrongfully deny student access to virtual courses and programs, examples include:
- Families have received signed forms indicating their MOCAP enrollment has been approved, only for their district to later claim the forms were signed by the wrong the person and thus invalid.
- One district claimed there was no evidence virtual courses were necessary given that the student appeared on track to graduate from their traditional public school.
- Parents have been harassed with truancy calls after providing signed MOCAP enrollment forms.
- Some parents have been denied the right to have counsel present at an enrollment hearing by deeming the hearing “closed” and forcing the attorney to remain on a different floor of the building.
How is the State Board of Education responding?
The State Board of Education held a hearing on a rule change proposal on June 9. The proposed rule will now enter a 30-day comment period and a formal vote on the matter is expected in July.
While the proposed change would require districts to act on any complete MOCAP application within 30 days, it fails to recognize that a month is entirely too long for a families to wait for an answer, especially as parents are being forced to make tough schooling decisions now to protect the health and safety of their family. As our survey revealed, many parents do not feel comfortable with sending their child to a brick and mortar school, even with the strictest preventative measures in place.
What we’re asking for
We’ll be submitting a public comment in the coming days on the matter, and we urge Missouri families to do the same. We’re asking the SBOE to consider reducing the amount of time a district has to respond to an application from 30 days to seven days. Given the current situation, it’s only fair to give parents more time to decide what’s best for the health and safety of their family.