Will DESE and Your School District Be Deprived of the Ability to Approve Virtual Providers for Your Students?

On Friday, August 2, 2019, the Cole County Circuit Court held a hearing in the matter of Estill v. DESE et al.  The Court was asked to enter an order requiring DESE and the local school district (Fulton) to treat Missouri Virtual Academy (MOVA), a program of Grandview R-2 School District, as a MOCAP provider.   The Grandview R-2 program is provided through K12, a national online vendor who is advertising heavily to parents as a “tuition free” program for public school courses online.

The argument made by the parents was that DESE is required to “automatically approve” MOVA as a MOCAP provider, even though MOVA had failed to complete the proposal documentation to become a MOCAP provider with DESE.  In effect, the parents argued that if Grandview R-2 has entered into an agreement pursuant to RSMo § 162.1250 with a virtual provider, then neither the resident school district nor DESE can deny enrollment in the virtual courses unless the resident school district determines, on a case-by-case basis, that the course is not in the best educational interest of the student.

The claims made are designed to deprive DESE and local school districts of the authority to approve the quality or standards of a virtual program if any Missouri school district or charter school has contracted with that virtual provider pursuant to RSMo § 162.1250.  In other words, a local school district would be compelled to pay for a virtual course for its resident students, even though that school district has no way to verify that the course conforms to instructional standards such as being taught by a Missouri certificated teacher or alignment with Missouri Learning Standards.

The Court indicated that it could issue an order as early as Monday, August 5th.  Notably, the attorney for the parents in this matter is Joshua Schindler, who also represents Rex Sinquefield and the Children’s Educational Alliance of Missouri.   The Grandview R-2 School District, sponsor of the Missouri Virtual Academy (MOVA) program, is represented by Mickes O’Toole.