Virtual learning bills heard in House committee

A Missouri House committee is considering legislation to bolster the state’s programs for virtual learning.

The effort comes as Missouri has fallen behind in the effort to bring digital learning opportunities to K-12 students, according to a Missouri Chamber Education Foundation study released earlier this year.

The study found that unlike many other states, Missouri students do not have a publicly funded online school option.  Missouri law also does not allow open enrollment in virtual schools.  At a time when students in rural schools and students in failing students could greatly benefit from a virtual learning option, the study urged Missouri to look closely at policy revisions.

Toward this goal, the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee held a hearing on two bills aimed at modifying Missouri’s virtual school statutes.

Rep. Kathy Swan, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, sponsored House bill 1780. Her bill would allow Missouri high school students who want to begin postsecondary coursework to access virtual learning programs.

The committee also heard testimony on House Bill 1895 by Rep. Vicki Englund, a Democrat from St. Louis. Rep. England’s bill would increase the amount of state funding given to local school districts that offer virtual learning programs. Currently, the state reimburses virtual programs at a rate of 94 percent of what the state would pay for traditional coursework. Rep. Englund is seeking to raise that to 95 percent.

The committee has not voted on either bill.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports efforts to enhance virtual learning options in our state. For the future of our economy, it is critical that Missouri students receive a world-class education and emerge prepared to compete in a global economy.

For more information about education legislation, contact Jay Atkins, atjatkins@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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New study: Digital learning should be available to all Missouri students

A new study released today shows that Missouri has fallen behind in the effort to bring digital learning opportunities to K-12 students. The current public offerings in Missouri are geographically restricted or require tuition payments. This means that as many states construct modern, open digital learning options, Missouri students are being left behind.

The study, commissioned by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation and conducted by the Evergreen Education Group, shows that digital education reforms are needed if Missouri is to achieve its goal of having one of the nation’s 10 best educational systems by 2020.

“In most states, online coursework is a viable, valuable option for students seeking to supplement the education they are receiving in the classroom,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Unfortunately, Missouri’s fractured digital learning system does not give equal access to these resources to all students. With this new study, we have identified the problem areas and we are providing practical suggestions to help Missouri improve its digital learning policies.”

Key findings of the study reveal that unlike many other states, Missouri students do not have a publicly funded online school option.  Further, Missouri law does not allow open enrollment in virtual schools.  At a time when students in rural schools and students in failing students could greatly benefit from a virtual learning option, Missouri needs to look closely at the policy surrounding it.

The Missouri Chamber Education Foundation has a vested interest in ensuring Missouri has high performing educational system. With a globally competitive economy, it is imperative that Missouri students are receiving a world class education.

“In seeking to perform among the nation’s best educational systems, Missouri has set a high bar for our state’s administrators, students and teachers. We applaud this aggressive goal,” said Brian Crouse, vice president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation. “As we work together toward achieving this vision, let’s make sure that we are utilizing all of our digital resources to provide outstanding content and learning materials options to all Missouri students who have an interest in enhancing their knowledge in order to engage and inspire them, and most importantly, set them on a pathway to success following high school.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Allowing statewide, fully online public schools.
  • Allowing schools to receive 100 percent funding for students taking online courses without requiring seat time.
  • Allowing schools to receive funding beyond one FTE for students seeking to take online courses beyond the school day.
  • Increasing opportunities for rural students by offering fully funded courses through MoVIP and other state-approved providers, and developing a best practices guide for rural consortia.
  • Supporting unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts that want to make online options available to their students.
  • Continuing to pursue broadband access not just to schools and community centers, but in “the last mile” to homes statewide.
  • Considering developing policy that all students statewide should take one online course in order to graduate from high school.
  • Requiring all districts in the state – not just those that are unaccredited or provisionally accredited – to pay for students to take classes from MoVIP or other approved providers
  • Identifying state resources for schools and districts that wish to expand online and blended learning opportunities for students.

These recommendations were unveiled on Thursday, Jan. 30, during a news conference at the Missouri Capitol. To read the full study, click here.  Or go to www.mochamber.com and click on the Education tab and follow the link to Education Resources.  There you will find a link to Virtual Learning Options, where the report can be found.