Virtual schools in a fight for adequate funding

In a recent blog post, Klein wrote: “Georgia education headlines are too often made for the wrong reasons. National test scores that disappoint, high schools that under-perform, and the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal do nothing to recommend Georgia as forward thinking and a place to create a business and raise a family. Embracing an aggressive plan to fast forward online education would seem like a no-brainer.”

Decision based on politics, not data

According to the Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education (GFPVE), $3,200 per pupil never should have happened, legally: In 2008, Georgia passed a law requiring the GCSC to provide fair and equitable funding for online public charter schools.

“The typical student in Georgia received over $8,000, yet virtual charter schools receive around $3,500—among the lowest of any state,” said GFPVE.

“We have complete discretion on the funding level,” countered Peevy. “This is not illegal.”

He added: “Virtual education is on what we call the bleeding edge in Georgia, and it’s always tough to decide how we should fund virtual education. We’re at the starting point of that discussion.”

When GFPVE asked to see the documents showing how the GCSC reached its decision on local virtual-school funding, the commission’s response raised even more questions.

“It is unclear how the commission concluded that a quality, full-time virtual charter school can operate at or less than $3,300 per student—and what, if any, research or analysis was done to arrive at that low amount,” said Susan Patrick, president and CEO of iNACOL. “… Upon a public information request, a single spreadsheet that appeared to be based on no data—just guesses—showed a lack of research and data by the decision makers, and bad policy was set for inequitable funding.”

Doug Rosenbloom, an attorney for GFPVE, believes the lack of evidence supporting the commission’s decision was a result of state politics, not just ignorance.

“Virtual school funding is a hot issue in our state, and to be blunt, the decision not to adequately fund these schools came from the governor’s office,” said Rosenbloom.

Meris Stansbury

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