Parents are taking matters into their own hands this fall when it comes to their children’s education, particularly those dissatisfied with what their public school districts are offering. They are creating their own neighborhood schools, hiring tutors or using known education providers, such as Sylvan Learning Center or Mathnasium. Others are switching to private schools or home-schooling.

But many parents can’t afford to buy an education and must rely on the public school system that is constitutionally required to provide a free and fair education. Almost 1,500 Missouri parents seeking options within that system have opted for one of the 11 approved virtual providers in the Missouri Course Access Program. For parents scrambling to find a working option for this fall, they are the only group that must first ask for permission. Even worse, districts are under no deadline to grant that permission.

Parents sacrificing to pay for what districts aren’t providing are being accused of increasing inequity in an already inequitable situation. The fact is, districts offering a one-size-fits-all-that-hopefully-fits-for-you-because-we-won’t-let-you-out-of-it approach this fall are the ones increasing inequity.

Instead of pretending fall 2020 is just a more challenging semester, the Legislature and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education could be facilitating enrollment in MOCAP, in-person private schools and micro-schools for all students.

Missouri should step up and make it easier for parents to find what they need.

Susan Pendergrass

Director of research and education policy, Show-Me Institute

St. Louis