Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Lifting the caps on virtual schools


The Legislative Audit Bureau has completed their study of Wisconsin’s public charter online schools, and the results are in: these schools are successful. As I wrote for the MacIver Institute this week, it’s time to celebrate their success by lifting the caps:

Students enrolled in virtual schools exceeded their brick and mortar counterparts in reading at every grade level and exceeded the math scores for four out of the seven levels tested. Over 94 percent of parents are satisfied with their child’s virtual charter school. A number that should make WEAC happy, 93 percent of virtual school teachers are satisfied with teaching online courses. Students are also satisfied with the contact with their teachers, with 97 percent of high school students saying they were satisfied or very satisfied. Contrary to the fears expressed by the schools’ detractors the children in these public charter schools are well socialized and the teachers express a high degree of satisfaction with their ability to interact with their students.

Moreover, Virtual schools have proved to be a good bargain for the taxpayers. Virtual schools receive $6,077 per pupil compared to the average expense of $11,397 per pupil in traditional schools.

Yet, WEAC complained in a press release that charter virtual schools, because of their success, result in different school districts competing for students to get the state funding. What WEAC does not say is that for each student leaving their district under open enrollment, the district still receives over $3,000. WEAC complained about the amount of money spent on private contractors by the virtual schools. What they don’t mention is that 93 percent of the funding is spent on teachers and curriculum, and that traditional brick and mortar schools also spend money on private companies (book publishers, transportation companies, utility companies, etc.)

WEAC complained only 3 percent of virtual charter school students are special needs students. (They artifically hinder enrollment in these schools and then they complain about who enrolls in these schools?) However, WEAC ignores the fact that when it comes to children with special needs, 77 percent of parents were more satisfied with the services in virtual schools and 20 percent were equally satisfied.

Clearly the way to better serve even more students, including those with special needs, is to lift the enrollment caps on virtual charter schools.

What is interesting is what WEAC did not say. They could not say that virtual charter schools are being taught by unqualified teachers because the teachers are union teachers. They could not say virtual schools are not teaching the children because the test results speak for themselves.

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