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Bill to establish locally sponsored...

Bill to establish locally sponsored virtual public school program passes in Mississippi House

By: Jeremy Pittari - March 13, 2024

  • House Education Chairman Rep. Rob Roberson views the legislation as a way to improve access to high quality teachers in subject areas that may be lacking in school districts around the state.

A bill that would establish virtual classes featuring top-notch teachers through a locally sponsored virtual public school program to provide lessons not offered in some school districts around the state passed in the Mississippi House of Representatives on Tuesday by a vote of 80-38. 

If it becomes law, up to three districts of innovation could be selected for the pilot program.

State Rep. Rob Roberson

“At least from my standpoint, the whole point of this is to make certain that we’re having a good teacher be able to teach across the state,” House Education Chairman Rep. Rob Roberson (R) said as he described HB 1192 on the House floor.

While virtual schools are not new, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, this legislation focuses on subject matters at a higher level or courses that are not offered at certain schools. The classes would be presented by teachers who excel in their field.

“The intent we have is to make certain, specifically like, let’s say chemistry or a high math, or frankly any particular area that we are having trouble with to have at that school district that’s doing a good job with that be able to go online and be able to help other school districts. And just for full disclosure, it’s not just limited to just public schools. This would probably be something that could be used for your homeschoolers or just anybody,” Roberson described.   

Attendance in the virtual school will be free to the student under most circumstances. However, homeschooled children will have to provide their own hardware to access the virtual classes online.

When asked why only three districts would be allowed to offer courses, Rep. Roberson said he added a reverse repealer so the bill could continue to be revamped as the program is implemented through the pilot phase. Roberson said he is open to expanding the program.

The bill will allow excelling school districts of innovation to offer single courses or an entire curriculum. Rep. Roberson said this program would be managed financially by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), and MDE will be tasked with choosing the three school districts that will participate through an application process. 

“Right now, the way this bill is written, we can only (allow) three school districts,” Rep. Roberson said. “Keep in mind, MDE has a virtual school that they run out of MDE. This would be run out of a public school, one that’s doing real well that would hopefully give us an opportunity for some of the districts that don’t have maybe a chemistry teacher, somebody like that that we could use this system to be able to use that good teacher across the state,” Roberson elaborated.

Attendance in the classes would be open to students attending public school or those that cannot or do not attend a public school for whatever reason. 

“Well, there are kids that are already doing that. And you have kids that are sick, that could use this program. You got kids that are homeschool children that could use this program. It’s just a matter of whatever fits for that particular kid. I can’t imagine this is going to be a situation where you have hundreds or thousands of kids, it’s just going to be for a specific issues and more than likely there’s going to be a lot of public schools using this to help them find a teacher that they need,” Roberson said. “It’s a critical needs kind of thing as far as I’m concerned as well.”

If it becomes law, HB 1192 would go into effect for the 2024-2025 school year. 

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

About the Author(s)
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy: