Missouri lawmakers ask state education leaders to ‘step up’ when it comes to making sure students have internet access

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) – There are thousands of Missouri students attending class this fall

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) – There are thousands of Missouri students attending class this fall online, either because it’s their only option, or it’s the choice their family made because of the pandemic.

Lawmakers grilled state school leaders Thursday about what they’re doing to help make sure those students have access to the internet.

“We can’t operate in a silo anymore,” said Representative Ingrid Burnett, D-Kansas City. “We can’t afford to sit here and say ‘our school leaders are doing the best they can.’ They’re not getting the kind of help and leadership that they need to do that.”

The state education department says school districts are working to address those needs.

“I know many have purchased hot spots over the last six months to try and reach more students,” said Dr. Kari Monsees, deputy commissioner of the Division of Financial and Administrative Services of DESE.

There is more money through the CARES Act that can help.

“There’s $10 million there, and that’s to provide access points outside the school building, whether that’s hot spots on buses, exterior access points on a building so students can access it even from the parking lot if they can’t be in school full time, or even mobile hot spots in the home if we need to,” Monsees said.

That money has to be spent by the end of the year.

Saint Joseph Republican Representative Brenda Shields said teachers are being stretched thin, and they’re going to need help to make sure students are getting educated.

“Where can we find some dollars to provide our educators some assistance to educate these students who have yet to connect? How can we help them formulate a plan on how to do this, because if not, we’ve lost a generation and we can’t afford to lose a generation,” Shields said.

DESE also submitted budget requests for next year’s funding. That will all be passed along through the committee process.

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