By Rose Fernandez
As a parent advocate for school options, I have been a part of many efforts to call for expansion of choices for parents. I see the benefits for children and their families every day in my own children's statewide online public school and schools like it around the country. I rejoice when options grow and despair when legislators and bureaucrats don't see the benefits and doors for our boys and girls are closed.
Over the past few weeks, I have visited Iowa multiple times and have been following the progress of two new online learning programs and the unfounded criticism surrounding them. Critics have argued that full-time online public schools are illegal under "Dillon's Rule," a clause in the Iowa Code that states school districts are only allowed to do what is expressly stated in law. The law is silent on online learning.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued an opinion last week debunking this myth, pumping new life into the school choice efforts being made in the state. The opinion states that online courses are permitted, as long as the curriculum is taught by a properly licensed teacher and that students enrolled in the course are supervised. These components are both met by Iowa's new online schools.
From my experience fighting for school choice in my home state of Wisconsin, I can attest that it is often an uphill battle. The status quo is entrenched and resistant. Families in Iowa must continue to fight for innovations that focus on child-centered instruction and competency and give them multiple school choices.
Two statewide online public schools - Iowa Virtual Academy and Iowa Connections Academy - are set to open their doors this fall. Hundreds of parents have asked to enroll their girls and boys. While our traditional classrooms serve most children well, some need something different. We must do what we can to ensure these children, wherever they live, are given equal opportunity to receive an education that fits their needs.
It's great to see Iowa doing just that.