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Missouri lawmakers have sent the governor legislation that sets up a virtual school program that would be open to all students. Right now, some universities, including Missouri State University have virtual school programs but districts must pay a fee for students who take virtual courses. Under the bill, the state would pay for students who enroll either full-time or part-time in the statewide virtual school. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
The virtual school legislation cleared the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support.
The bill sets up a virtual school by July, 2007 that would provide on-line or technology-mediated instruction to students all over the state. Initially, the program would be limited to 500 students or fewer, based on what the state could afford.
Virtual school teachers will have to meet the same standards imposed on teachers in regular classrooms. Course material will also have to be comparable.
The bill sponsor, Republican Representative Brian Baker of the Kansas City area says the virtual school will address the needs of many students.
The state estimates it will cost 2 point 6 million dollars to set up the virtual school and run it the first year.
But Democratic Representative Melba Curls of Kansas City says she expects the program to cost more because it will be expensive to get students connected to the virtual school.
Another lawmaker expressed similar concerns.
Democratic Floor Leader Jeff Harris of Columbia says it's possible the virtual school could expand and become expensive. Harris also questioned how much money the state would spend on businesses that will provide curriculum material for the virtual school.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will oversee the curriculum selection for the virtual school.
Democratic Representative Joe Aull of east central Missouri is a former school superintendent.
He says students won't succeed in the virtual school unless they are motivated to use it as a tool to help them succeed.
Before voting to send the bill to the governor's desk, Republican Representative Jane Cunningham praised a Southwest Missouri man for promoting the idea of virtual education.
She thanked Jim Tice, a former Strafford superintendent who now works as the liaison between Missouri State University's program, the Missouri Virtual School and public school districts.
The virtual school bill now goes to the governor's desk.