Virtual schools in a fight for adequate funding


“More than 40 percent of high school students want to take an online course. There are currently more than 200,000 students enrolled in full-time public virtual schools in 25 states, and the numbers are rising as the demand from parents and students grows every year,” she said.

According to Patrick, the U.S. has experienced a 30-percent growth in online learning over the past 10 years, with millions of students also taking online courses. In college, one in four students takes an online course.

“The problem is not whether online [instruction] works—we know that it does,” she said. “The problem is that the Georgia Charter School Commission made a decision without looking at the data that show actual costs, and they made incorrect assumptions. There may be some cost savings, as was found in Wisconsin, when virtual schools are brought to scale by eliminating artificial enrollment caps.” But policy makers too often underestimate the costs necessary to operate a high-quality virtual school, she added.

Amid criticism from supporters of online instruction, the GCSC has agreed to revisit its funding strategies for virtual schools.

According to Rosenbloom, the commission has agreed to assign three of its members, as well as some budget personnel from the state education department, to look into the matter further. “Hopefully, we’ll see a resolution soon,” he said.

The two schools, Kaplan and Provost, are awaiting a decision on whether their funding will be revised—a decision that should take place by December, said Rosenbloom. GFPVE has not yet decided to file a lawsuit against the commission.

“We are committed to virtual education,” said Peevy. “We recognize that this is a work in progress, and [we] realize virtual education is a key piece to what we offer students in Georgia.”

“On one level, this is about funding,” said Klein. “On another level, the substantial question is whether Georgia is ready to embrace innovative education platforms that supplement traditional classrooms. If so, Georgia becomes a national leader. If not, Georgia becomes a national laggard.”

Links:

Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education

Georgia Charter Schools Commission

APA report, “Costs and Funding of Virtual Schools” (PDF)

iNACOL

Mike Klein

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Online Learning: One Pathway to Success resource center. A growing number of K-12 school systems are discovering the power of online learning to transform education as we know it, opening up nearly limitless possibilities for their students. Go to:

Online Learning: One Pathway to Success

Meris Stansbury

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