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GUEST COMMENTARY: Students suffer from having online program pulled

Thursday, November 12, 2009 | 4:39 p.m. CST; updated 10:58 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The 2008 election is already causing me to have some voter’s remorse. Specifically, I am referring to the judgment demonstrated by Gov. Jay Nixon and his attempt to cut $204 million from the state budget because of the alleged decline in state revenues.

Of this amount, the governor has been advised by the newly appointed (July 2009) state Commissioner of Education, Chris Nicastro, to eliminate the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program. This program has barely gotten dry behind the ears and found its land legs, when the commissioner decides to cut it off at the knees, midway through the academic year, leaving some 1,500 students in the lurch.

MOVIP was designed to serve students across the state who would otherwise stand little chance for graduating in traditional public school settings. Among the student population served by MOVIP are special needs students, those with severe health issues and students who have been remotely displaced due to family obligations, just to name a few.

For the data hungry, Missouri was one of the last of 44 states to adopt virtual online education programs. This format clearly is the classroom of the future. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This means even overachievers can supplement their regular classroom curriculum and actually advance beyond high school and onward to college and a career. But, if we follow the pathway of least resistance in Missouri, we will be moving backward. Some would call that “dumbing down.” But, then again as we now see, so was the No Child Left Behind Act. Is that the new status quo in Missouri?

Normally, prudent decision-making would involve conducting a thorough assessment of a program and by looking closely at the results and how they affect those involved, before the decision was enacted. But, some serious oversights are apparent with Nicastro’s advice to the governor, and more so with the governor’s ability to discriminate between sound advice and a possibly hidden agenda.

Assuming Nixon cuts the MOVIP program, has Nicastro also advised him that the educators who staff the MOVIP program have binding contracts for the academic year? These are some of the crème de la crème of education and should not be taken lightly. And, has Nicastro advised the good governor on how to resolve that costly legal issue? So much for prudent spending practices.

Then there is the situation with the students. Where do they turn now? Oh, yes, by the way, any alternative plan for resurrecting MOVIP would have to be approved by Nicastro. Do you suppose the governor knows that as well?

At this point, I think I want to rescind my vote for Gov. Nixon. After all, why would I want a sitting governor to be taking advice from a state education commissioner who is probably a better politician than an advocate for education. I sincerely believe Missouri’s children deserve better.

Linda Ferris is a freelance writer who lives in Moberly.

 


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