"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Homeschoolers, Beware of Educational Carrots Offered by Virtual School Courses

Homeschoolers: Beware of the carrots of virtual school courses offered in Missouri in 2013. They may magically transform you into a public education student.

We recently wrote "Will Home Schooled and Private Schooled Students have to take Common Core Assessments" and state legislation about this issue being questioned by a private school in Deland, Florida.  The school was requesting clarification from the Governor about language which seemingly indicated private school credits would not transfer to public schools in certain courses because the private school tests were not under the same assessments (common core) as the public schools.

Missouri Senator Jane Cunningham introduced SB706  in January 2012 that should have triggered concern in the homeschooling community.  The bill contained language for virtual schooling which has been offered to home schoolers by various school districts:

A student may enroll in the virtual courses or programs
2 offered by any virtual education provider or school district in Missouri
3 that meets the standards of the department of elementary and
4 secondary education and is accredited. The department may offer its
5 own virtual courses or programs. Any student who enrolls in a virtual
6 course or program under this section shall be considered a public
7 school student and shall take the components of the statewide
8 assessments under section 160.518 that relate to the virtual course or
9 program in which they are enrolled.
The virtual nonresident student's
10 district of residence shall pay the school district or charter school
11 providing such virtual education an amount equal to seventy-two and
12 one half percent of the previous year's statewide average current
13 expenditure per average daily attendance.

(pg. 27/37)

What caught our attention about this bill in January 2012 was the  highlighted sentence above.  Like the private school concern in Florida, we were concerned that home schooled students taking virtual courses would have to take the mandated common core statewide assessments as traditional public schools.  From the witness statement MEW provided the education committee concerning our objection to various parts of the bill:

Virtual Schools
·         (p 27) 167.418  This section requires virtual schools to have accreditation.  It does not state which agency must grant this accreditation.  If it is MOSBE accreditation, which comes with strings attached, then the virtual schools will be no different than public schools. The language should be the same as the language for accreditation for private schools which allows outside accreditation with no strings attached.

·         Virtual schools would receive an amount equal to 72 ½ % of average per pupil expenditure.  This seems excessive and quickly drains money away from the home district. It could be used by districts as a way to make money. For example, a school could offer virtual courses for less money, take the state’s full payment, and pocket the difference.  It would be more reasonable for the state to offer a flat rate for virtual courses equal to the average cost of a course plus a computer or at the very least say that they may spend “up to but not exceeding 72 ½%.” 

·         This section also classifies anyone who takes a virtual course as a public school student who is subject to the required state assessments for that course. The language should read, “Any student receiving state money for virtual courses shall be considered a public school student. “ 

Was this legislation a back door effort to have home schooling students become part of the common core data base or an oversight?  Would home schoolers have to give up their educational autonomy by taking advantage of virtual online courses?  Posted on Facebook in February was this statement from a Missouri constituent passing on this statement from the senator's office:

Senator Jane Cunningham has removed the entire section dealing with the testing on virtual schooling in the new versions of our legislation. A number of analysts did affirm that the original language posed no threats to homeschooling families, regardless the substitute for both SB706 and SB451 will have no testing requirement on virtual schooling.

We contacted the senator's office and were told it had been changed and a draft was sent to us.   From the senator's draft:

167.418. A student may enroll in the virtual courses or
programs offered by any school district, charter school, or the
virtual public school established in section 161.670, provided
that the virtual instruction complies with the requirements of
subsections 4 and 5 of section 162.1250.

What does the May 18, 2012 final version of the bill (that did not pass) state about virtual schooling and testing requirements?  Virtual school students still would be under state standards and assessments (pg 29/46):

The students of a school district that has been declared
131 unaccredited under section 161.092 may be enrolled in the virtual
132 school of a district, the state, or any virtual program that conforms to
133 state standards,
as an alternative to or in addition to such enrollment
134 under this section.

VIRTUAL SCHOOLS: A student may enroll in the virtual courses or programs of a virtual education provider or school district that meets Department of Elementary and Secondary Education standards and is accredited. The Department may also offer its own virtual courses. Students enrolled in virtual education must take the components of the statewide assessment that relate to the student's virtual courses or program. The Department shall withhold the tuition amount, as described in the act, from the district of residence's state school aid, and may seek local moneys, as described in the act. (Section 167.418)

What's happening in Florida legislation was attempted in Missouri legislation: the inability for private companies (virtual school operators) to provide their own assessments and curriculum aligned with those assessments.  State legislators either knowingly or unknowingly are mandating these private entities march in step with common core standards and assessments.

When folks proclaim they will just pull their children out of public schools to get away from government indoctrination...well, your child's education may just very well be just as "common" as the public schools thanks to your state legislatures.


1 comment:

  1. It's very knowingly.

    The companies (usually K12.com or Connections Academy) and the school district split the federal monies that come in for each student enrolled this way. They have each discovered a cash cow in declaring the virtual students public school students.

    Government money = government strings. If it's "free," it's public school, and you are subject to jumping through whatever flaming hoops they feel like imposing.


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