Interview with Jane Cunningham.
[MP3, 6.2 MB]
As a State Representative for six years and Chairwoman of the Missouri House Education Committee, Representative Jane Cunningham has shown tireless dedication to ensuring that students in Missouri receive a quality education. She worked closely with other state lawmakers and the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association to propose and pass legislation that supports the creation of virtual schools and other online learning opportunities for students. Two years ago, Cunningham began working with Missouri school districts that were having difficulties attracting and retaining teachers for certain subject areas. Some districts, in rural areas, did not have enough students to warrant the hiring of a teacher so they were providing "synchronous distance classes" over the Internet. Cunningham soon realized the broad range of opportunities made possible by using high speed Internet as an educational delivery system and began working towards effectively implementing virtual schools in Missouri. Cunningham believes that as an alternative to traditional schooling, virtual schools have several advantages for students who do not fit the mainstream, such as children whose families travel, or students who are homebound because of an illness or disability. Teachers who would like to teach from home also benefit. In addition, she has been a dedicated proponent of virtual schools as a solution for states that have to deliver educational services with little or no interruption during emergency situations, such as Hurricane Katrina. A former school board member, Cunningham remains an active volunteer in the community, having served on numerous boards including the Missouri (Governor's) Mansion Preservation, several local Chambers of Commerce, and a teenage drug and alcohol use prevention program.