Stay-at-home orders create new approaches to distance learning methods, and opposition to increased educational choices

Parents, students, and teachers across the country are adjusting to education outside the physical school classroom due to the coronavirus shutdown and stay-at-home orders. Many are experiencing for the first time a different way to learn than the traditional approach, educational experts note.

Remote learning and virtual classrooms could be a sign of the future, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) suggested Monday in a telecast with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is now the president and chairman of the board of directors at the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Kevin Roberts, executive director of TPPF, led the discussion in light of the opportunities being presented during the coronavirus shutdown.

“In the last month, millions of parents whether they like it or not are learning math and social studies,” Roberts said. And they are seeing the quality and lack of quality of education information when supervising online learning at home. This phenomenon has led parents to reevaluate their educational choices and learn how to harness technology to customize each student’s learning experience, he added.

In Texas, one example of successful virtual online learning is The Texas Virtual School Network Online Schools (TXVSN OLS) program, which provides full-time online instruction to eligible Texas public school students in grades 3-12. Students can enroll in a TEA-accredited public school district and open-enrollment charter school approved to participate in the program. These free online public schools offer 100 percent virtual instructional programs to students across the state who are not physically present on campus. Students who enroll in one of the TXVSN online schools are public school students.

In Florida, the Florida Virtual School, which was founded one year before Bush was elected to office, has been helping other schools by providing online resources during the coronavirus response. The school is offering online courses in conjunction with Alaska teachers, Bush said, who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to such resources, especially in remote areas to help children learn in a new way.

“The internet doesn’t have state boundaries,” Bush told Roberts. “The idea of finding qualified teachers should be viewed in a 21st century way. We get tied to the old way of thinking that you have to be certified in every state. In Florida we have reciprocity. If you have been certified in one state we don’t make it impossible to be certified in ours.”

“All of this regulatory morass on top of learning impedes progress,” Bush added.

In light of these new methods and opportunities, the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) created a “quick start” guide online to help parents who are considering homeschooling as a result of having navigated distance learning at home during the coronavirus shutdown.

“While the education of nearly all school-age children has been moved to the home, the instructional model that many public schools have switched to is causing some families to consider withdrawing their children and privately homeschooling them,” Michael Donnelly, staff attorney at HSLDA, said.

However, with increased choices, parents are facing opposition, Donnelly added. HSLDA has identified a trend of public school officials “in a growing number of states” who have told parents that they cannot withdraw their children from public school, he says.

“This stance by officials not only defies the law but also places considerable stress on families,” Donnelly said. “Quite understandably, some parents have told us they want to take advantage of the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling while they are all home together during this time of crisis. Other parents have said that the online-only coursework being mandated in some school districts is not a good fit for their kids.”

HSLDA reported on families in Florida who were told, “all students will stay with current Palm Beach County Schools until further notice.” The decision was reversed after HSLDA and others got involved.

Parents in a North Carolina school district, and in Riverside, California, HSLDA says, also wanted to start homeschooling their children and withdraw them from public school, and were told by school officials that they would not process their paperwork to withdraw them.

HSLDA says it will help parents who want to control the educational choices for their children in any state where they are experiencing pushback from making their own decisions about their children’s educational options.

The TPPF has also made education reform and parental choice options one of its top legislative priorities for the next Texas Legislative Session, Roberts said.

This article was first published by The Center Square.



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