Are DESE and districts blocking students from virtual education?
That was the question before the Missouri Special Committee on Government Oversight on Tuesday.
“I have seen over the last 90 days a systematic approach by DESE and the school districts to place one barrier after another in front of our skilled school children to deny them the best educational opportunities available to them,” attorney Josh Schindler told the committee.
“We have to tell districts that an individual, whose parents understand their needs, that you need to treat them with respect and dignity and take their opinions into account,” he said.
“DESE and school districts do not like what the legislature did in SB670 (the bill that expanded virtual education). They don’t want an expansion of online programming. They want a contraction of online programming so that more money stays with the district. What ultimately gets sacrificed are those parents who know what is in their child’s best interest.”
Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Nick Schroer asked DESE Assistant Commissioner Chris Neale if DESE had created any sort of framework to make sure districts were complying with the law.
“At the outset, we were reluctant to issue too much guidance,” said Dr. Neale. “We have had some initial discussions that that may be necessary. We have not done anything yet.”
Dr. Neale added that DESE did not have universal power over districts.
Rep. Schroer strongly encouraged DESE to provide better guidance to school districts.
“What we want is to ensure that these students, whether advanced or if they have medical issues or are problematic in a traditional setting, are receiving the education they need,” he said, noting that if that did not happen the Committee would likely return to the issue in 2020.
“One of two things will happen,” said Rep. Schroer. For the rest of 2019 and 2020, you will never hear from this committee again. Or, you will be here the rest of 2019 and 2020 providing hordes of documents for us to review.”
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