Lifting the Caps on Virtual Schools

Education Week reports on efforts to lift the caps that restrict the growth of virtual schools in some states. Among the points:

  • Online enrollment is growing at 30 percent a year.
  • In Wisconsin, over 90 percent of parents, teachers, and students involved in online schooling are satisfied with it.
  • Teacher unions are concerned that they’ll lose members if online schooling leads to a decline in the number of teachers. [No surprise!] Yet online schools can give today’s teachers new career options.
  • Because of enrollment caps imposed by legislatures, some online schools in Oregon and Arkansas have waiting lists. Some schools in Wisconsin may face the same situation in two years.

Another challenging facing online schools is that they are subject to legislatures cutting their budgets. From a political economy standpoint, that’s understandable, especially if the online schools are stand-alone ventures and not part of a school district. School districts have political power through members of school boards and being seen as a community asset. Online schools, by contrast, are much smaller (at most 1 percent of the enrollment of any state), their students are sometimes dispersed throughout a state, and as a result, they’re more vulnerable.

For more on virtual schools see the Kansas Education page on the topic.

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