Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Funding for Online Schools

A recent article featured in Parade magazine brought up the issue of funding for online schools. According to the author Stephanie Paterik, 175,000 students in 25 states attend school online. “If trends continue,” wrote Paterik, “half of all high school courses will be taught on the Web in 10 years.”

The funding for cyber schools comes from different sources—private companies, nonprofits, or the government—and some states require that public school districts share their funding with the virtual schools that students within the district boundaries attend.

A new virtual school and an expansion of an existing one in Indianapolis are examples of the growing trend. Indiana’s charter schools enroll students in grades one through six. According to Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, online programs provide an option for parents who want or need their children to learn at home. “If we hope to reach the diverse spectrum of learners in Indiana’s classrooms, education cannot be a one-size-fits-all system,” said Bennett. Ken Kusmer of the Associated Press reports that “virtual charter schools have teachers and lessons like traditional public schools but offer their instruction online to students at home.”

Indiana’s virtual schools are part of a two-year pilot program approved by the state’s General Assembly and fully funded by the state. But some people oppose state funds being shared with online schools and call it “tax-supported home schooling” (see Education Week). In 2009 a Pennsylvania school district had 50 students switch from public schools to virtual schools, and the district had to give up about $10,000 per student. Superintendent John Halfhill said, ”In my district, we’re outperforming the cyber schools in almost every regard based on achievement data, yet we are funding those schools” (see Parade).

What is your opinion of the funding of virtual schools? Perhaps you are a student or a teacher at an online school—what has been your experience?

Emily Howard, TestOut

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