Reimagining Education

Judge orders state to stop blocking access to virtual education

In a major victory for students across the state, a Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled this week that the Fulton School District and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) must stop attempts to block students from accessing the Missouri Virtual Academy (MOVA) through the MOCAP program.

DESE had attempted to prevent families from reaping the full benefits of the new virtual education law by refusing to list MOVA, which is provided by the Grandiew R-2 School District, as an approved MOCAP course.

As a result, families seeking to enroll their children in a MOVA course were denied their legal right to request their school district to pay for the MOVA courses and blocked from the appeals process proscribed by the virtual education law.

Assistant Commissioner of Education Chris Neale in an email sent to all Missouri school administrators on June 21, 2019 claimed that only eight providers can qualify as MOCAP programs and that while school districts can choose to offer courses from other districts or providers, parents have no legal right to request those courses.

But Judge Gael Wood ruled that a plain reading of the law showed “unequivocally that the legislature intended to treat districts and charter schools of Missouri who wish to offer online course/programs through MOCAP differently than providers without such a presence in the State of Missouri.”

Wood noted that to find otherwise would render portions of the law meaningless and that blocking access to MOVA denied students access to course they would otherwise qualify for.

State Senator Bob Onder, who sponsored the virtual education bill, applauded the decision.

“This ruling is not only a win for the Estill family, but for students across Missouri,” said Senator Onder.“The General Assembly passed SB 603 so students could learn and succeed in whatever educational environment works best for them. This ruling finally corrects the Fulton School District’s outrageous decision to deny the Estills the educational opportunities afforded to them under state law. It is time for bureaucrats to end their obstructionism and follow the law.” 

In recent weeks we have also heard a wide range of misinformation that parents are receiving about the new program when they ask about it at districts across the state.

The requirements of the program are simple and have been state law for close to a year now. 
Under the law (161.670, RSMo):

  • Districts/LEAs MUST FEATURE (not just provide a link to) information about the new virtual offerings on their website
  • Districts/LEAs MUST INFORM parents and students of the virtual offerings and provide information about it in their handbooks and registration documents
  • The process for enrolling in a virtual course MUST be substantially similar to the process to enroll in any other course offered by the district/LEA
  • The district/LEA CANNOT make a decision on enrollment in a virtual course based on anything else (including finances) than the educational best interests of the student
  • Students are NOT required to unenroll from a district in order to access a full-time virtual education program. In fact, they MUST remain enrolled in their home district under the law.
  • Districts/LEAs MUST PAY for the cost of any MOCAP virtual education course chosen by the student including a full-time program (up to the value of the state adequacy target)
  • Districts/LEAs CANNOT pick a single virtual provider to offer to their students

If your district or LEA is not following these guidelines then they are NOT in compliance with state law.

Virtual education can provide a wide range of options for both districts/LEAs and students when implemented properly. Virtual education can provide cost savings, expanded course offerings, real-time feedback on student success, the ability to create your own state-wide courses, opportunities for early graduation, and access to CTE programs.

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