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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Virtual Schools Bad for Education Reform

Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011, at 10:54 AM

(Photo)
Virtual education is no substitute for traditional public schools.
By Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.

Last year under Governor Phil Bredesen, Tennessee made great strides in education reform when we won the Race to the Top Grant. Unfortunately, one year later, we have back tracked and jeopardized our standing as a national model for education. Over the next few weeks, I want to cover these changes and show why I think it's so important to reverse course next session and preserve our public education system.

Among the multitude of anti-public education bills filed this session was HB 1030, commonly known as the "Virtual Schools" bill. Under previous law in Tennessee, any school board could start a virtual education program for students enrolled in their public schools. This was commonly used to provide students with classes not offered at their institution or for students home bound by illness. It was provided free of charge and operated on a non-profit basis.

Under HB 1030, local school boards can still start their own virtual school, but now the state has opened the door to for-profit businesses running virtual schools as well. I opposed this legislation because I believe it will have several negative consequences.

First, I opposed this bill because public education is not intended to be a for-profit business. Tennessee's constitution requires us to provide free public education to every student in the state. Under HB 1030, school boards can now charge tuition to students for virtual schools. Additionally, millions of your tax-payer dollars will go to private companies and the state will still be forced to provide computer and internet access to students enrolled in these for- profit virtual schools. This goes against the spirit of public education and is fiscally irresponsible.

Second, I opposed this bill because it is a prime example of special interest groups infiltrating the legislative process. K-12 Inc is a multi-million dollar virtual schools company founded by a convicted felon. During the last legislative session, K-12 Inc hired 3 lobbyists to push through the virtual schools bill. Don't be fooled, K-12 Inc didn't do this because they care about education; they did it because they stand to make millions by starting for-profit, tuition charging schools with your tax-payer dollars.

Finally, I opposed this bill because it is a step too far. While I support virtual education programs for homebound students or for students wanting to take more advanced classes not offered in their school, I am opposed to this legislation because it promotes for-profit virtual schools as an alternative to traditional, in-classroom learning. It is irresponsible to do this because, as the National Education Policy Center points out, we have no data to show us how these for-profit virtual schools will perform against traditional public schools. Until we have this data, it is premature to use tax-payer money to open hundreds of for-profit virtual schools.

As always, if you have any questions about this new law or would like to hear more about another issue, please contact my legislative office and we'll get your questions answered as soon as possible. Have a great week!


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

As a fully certified teacher who has taught in Tennessee classrooms for over a decade, and as a parent, I am saddened to see the misinformation and misrepresentations in this article. As I continue to teach part-time, I have chosen to enroll my youngest child in TNVA (Tennessee Virtual Academy). Before I made that choice, I researched options in general and the K12 program in particular. With the school year already in the fourth week, I could not be more pleased with my daughter's program, her progress, her attitude, and the involvement we enjoy with her school and her classmates. I realize that powerful entities are doing their best to undermine this successful venture offered by K12, as they fear the competition and loss of funds. However, if we truly want to meet children's needs with highly individualized, safe, and successful schooling, we can't limit them to their local brick-and-mortar schools. Too many schools fall short in at least one of these areas, despite the state's much-touted "Race to the Top" rank.

The U.S. Department of Education has published recent research showing that students who took their classes online performed better overall than those taking the same class in traditional classrooms. I won't address the obviously untrue assertions of TNVA being for-profit, or founded by a felon. Any parent, legislator, or interested party that researches the situation knows that those are untrue talking points provided by fearful opposition. My point is to ask, "Why may we not have options, Rep. Fitzhugh? The current system is failing many. Why would you deny Tennessee students access to virtual schools that are helping students in 30 other states succeed?" Rep. Fitzhugh's website states, "Craig believes in expanding educational opportunities for more of Tennessee's children." It appears that he actually seeks to block opportunities instead. Please don't believe and repeat the untruths coming from entities that are all too comfortable with and defensive of the status quo. Talk to teachers and parents who are working with TNVA. You will find us overwhelmingly supportive and pleased with this option.

-- Posted by ParentTeacher on Thu, Aug 25, 2011, at 4:19 PM

TNVA provides a wonderful option for many of us taxpaying citizens who do not feel that our local school provides what our children need. It is an excellent curriculum and it bothers me greatly that Rep. Fitzhugh would be so careless with his remarks. Please do your homework, sir and get all of your information straight.

My child would not be going to a Tennessee public albeit virtual school if it were not for TNVA and K12. However, we do pay a great many taxes in this state and deserve options.

To quote ParentTeacher:

""Why may we not have options, Rep. Fitzhugh? The current system is failing many. Why would you deny Tennessee students access to virtual schools that are helping students in 30 other states succeed?" Rep. Fitzhugh's website states, "Craig believes in expanding educational opportunities for more of Tennessee's children." It appears that he actually seeks to block opportunities instead. Please don't believe and repeat the untruths coming from entities that are all too comfortable with and defensive of the status quo. Talk to teachers and parents who are working with TNVA. You will find us overwhelmingly supportive and pleased with this option."

-- Posted by lindasueis on Fri, Aug 26, 2011, at 4:35 PM


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