This week many parents across Missouri are starting the decision process over whether or not to send their child back to school in person in the fall or to engage in virtual learning at home.
Unfortunately, many of those parents are being forced to make those decisions without knowing all of the options that are open to them.
Districts across the state are continuing to blatantly ignore state laws mandating that they inform parents of their rights to enroll in well established and state-approved virtual eduction options through the MOCAP program.
Under the state law, districts are required to inform parents of their child’s right to participate in the MOCAP program and give the family the freedom to choose which MOCAP provider they feel is best for their child.
But when districts began announcing their reopening plans earlier this week, very few of those plans included a mention of MOCAP when discussing the virtual education options that parents have.
When districts do include a MOCAP option in their reopening plans, they frequently break the law by locking parents into only one provider instead of giving them the full range of options provided through the MOCAP law.
St. Louis Public Schools, for example, gave parents three options: return to school in person, use distance learning provided by district teachers, or use virtual education provided by Edmentum. There is no mention of the 10 other virtual education providers that families have a legal right to access under the MOCAP program, some of which supply families with computers and live, synchronous virtual learning opportunities.
Similarly limited options can be found in districts across the St. Louis region. Hancock Place is automatically enrolling any parents who want a virtual option this fall in the Edgenuity and seemingly not giving an option for parents to pick a different provider.
Hillsboro is offering parents a district-based virtual option for students in K-5 and Launch based programming for students in 6-12, with no mention of other MOCAP options.
Ritenour, which has announced its reopening will be completely virtual, offers its own virtual academy (which had an enrollment deadline of July 17) and has no mention of access to any MOCAP providers in its reopening plan.
The failure to provide families with all the information they need to make the best choice for their children’s future and safety is particularly egregious during an emergency like the current pandemic, but Missouri school districts have been using these tactics to block families from their right to virtual education options since the MOCAP law was passed.
A survey of 400 Missouri families released by National Coalition for Public School Options last week showed that the majority of respondents had no knowledge of their rights under MOCAP and that districts had overwhelmingly failed to inform families of those rights.
According to the survey, only 39 percent of respondents were aware of the MOCAP program and only 12 percent had received any information about the program from their schools.
That is not surprising since, according to a review of district websites conducted by the Show-Me Institute last fall, only 57 out of the 556 school districts and charter schools in Missouri provided information about MOCAP on their websites. Of the 57 districts that had this information posted online, only a handful made it easily accessible.
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