School districts in Tennessee opposing competition found a champion in Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga) who has been extremely critical of new virtual schools. In the Times Free Press he labeled the Virtual Public Schools Act as “possibly [the] most destructive” bill to pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly this year.” The new law’s passage, Berke charged, was aided by K12’s lobbyists and “funnels thousands of Tennessee public education dollars to a convicted felon, high-profile Washington figures and millionaire executives who live around the world.”
It’s hard to imagine how giving families another option is so destructive. Here’s a response from the K12 blog:
With online public schools, parents have even more choice, and children anywhere in the state have equal access to a public school program. It’s often a popular choice for economically disadvantaged families since online schools are often the only public school option they have. This is why many K12-partner online public schools have become Title I schools. It’s no wonder a growing number of education leaders are calling for expanding the power of digital learning, and why online schools have been called the most public of all public schools. Giving parents and children more freedom and more choices. That’s democratic.
Since Union County chose to offer its online public school program to students in Tennessee, the response has been strong. Children from all walks of life – victims of bullying, struggling and advanced learners, and many others that were not finding success in traditional schools – were given a new public school opportunity. Each one of these kids deserves a great education. Even thoughsome officials continue to arbitrarily deny students, without regard to what is in the students’ best educational interests, parents are still willing to fight the system and fight for their kids.
The press has also been misleading about ‘enrollment problems’ in the new school. State law enables public school open transfer up to 2 weeks before start of school (july 24). After that, students need permission from their district to transfer to another county, in this case, Union County to access the Tennessee Virtual Academy. The snags are because of state regulations and districts actively blocking enrollment. Parents are understandably frustrated.
In nearly every state, online providers (nonprofit and for-profit) contract with a school district or a nonprofit board to provide a set of instructional services. They usually respond to an request for proposal and the contracting entity is held accountable for outcomes. The real issue, stated or otherwise, is usually the state funding that accompanies a student to their school of choice.
K12 is an online learning advocacy partner