HB 795: Equal Access to Education Act

House Bill 795, sponsored by Rep. Rob Roberson, would create new digital learning options for Mississippi students.

The state’s existing digital education statute, which became law in 2006, already authorizes the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to establish a state virtual public school, but no statewide, full-time option exists today. Students may only access individual courses through their school district.

In the wake of lockdowns and with increasing interest in at-home and distance learning, virtual schools dedicated to providing a full-time academic program online with teacher-led courses and support are gaining popularity. Thirty-five states have full-time, tuition-free virtual school options available to their students, including every southern state except Mississippi.

These schools can help with emergency preparedness, but the need goes much deeper. For students in a district that does not have a class because they lack a qualified teacher to teach that class, virtual programs can be a lifeline. Or it may be a supplemental option. Virtual schools can also benefit those who need non-traditional options – students with health concerns, students who learn at a different pace, students in rural areas, or students who need schedule flexibility. Students in failing schools or unsafe environments could benefit immediately.

This bill would allow public school districts, regional service agencies, or the state board to open virtual public schools serving students residing anywhere in the state.

Empower Mississippi supports this bill.

It has been referred to Education. You can read the bill here.