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Thursday, December 27, 2007

More on Virtual Schooling in Wisconsin

Okay, I've spend some time over the holidays looking at the ruling in the Wisconsin case. In case you were wondering, you can access it at:
Before Christmas, I posted some thoughts about the decision itself - see Should NACOL Get Involved?. Also see Signing off virtual schools for a good legal overview of the case from a Wisconsin attorney and law professor.

During this time, we've had some more people on the blogsphere weigh in. Here are just some of the ones that I've seen:
It was also interesting to read an item posted by the Wisconsin Parents Association as a way to mobilize their members on this issue:

http://www.homeschooling-wpa.org/issues/2007-charter/

I think that her first two points under the important facts are indeed important to remember. The court did not rule that parents cannot teach their children. It ruled that a virtual school cannot receive funding for that students when the child is largely being taught by the parent. And the most important line of all falls into the second point:

"especially since money is a motivating factor"

As I indicated in my previous post (see Problems Are Brewing in Wisconsin), the real issue here is that you have a school that is getting funding for work being done not by their own teachers, but by the parents. This is a form of glorified homeschooling, but someone is getting funded to do it (and not even the someone who is doing most of the work).

So please make sure you read this clearly, while I have some personal problems with some of the political motivations of some in the homeschooling movement (and these stem from my understandings based upon Michael Apple's work), I do believe that in some cases there are legitimate reasons parents choose the homeschooling option. I think legislation should reflect this reality and make it easy for parents to choose this option, while maintaining appropriate oversight to ensure that the child is being adequately educated.

Having said that, I do have a problem with a cyber school receiving public funding for the work that is largely being done by parents. If a parent decides to homeschool their child, they don't get funding to do so, why should some cyber school get those funds for doing almost the same job?

As a side note, I thought that the WPA did a good job with its history of virtual charter schools that they posted:

To increase profits, in recent years several curriculum providers have been marketing their virtual schools to school districts so districts rather than parents pay for the curriculums, which often cost over $1,000 per child per year. One such corporation is K12, Inc., originally headed by William Bennett, who was Secretary of Education under President Reagan. Bennett has fallen from favor and no longer heads K12, Inc. WPA opposed the establishment of such schools and testified at hearings in several school districts. (See WPA’s opposing public E-Schools.) Lake Mills School District considered and rejected a contract with K12, Inc., but in 2003, Northern Ozaukee School District signed on. Northern Ozaukee faced declining enrollment and wanted to increase enrollment, jobs, and its budget. (In its contract with Northern Ozaukee, K-12, Inc. agreed to cover court costs and attorneys’ fees resulting from lawsuits.)

Wisconsin has never had a statute saying that virtual charter schools are legal. From the beginning, these schools have relied on loopholes in statutes governing charter schools and open enrollment that were enacted before virtual charter schools came into existed and were not intended to authorize them.

Kind of reads like an indictment, doesn't it?

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