By: Beth Purcell 

State by state, more parents are gaining the option to send their child to a full-time public virtual school.  That’s the story told by our PublicSchoolOptions.org 2012-2013 scrapbook, released [last week].  With report cards arriving at homes across the country at the end of the school year, the scrapbook is an opportunity for our coalition members across the country to ask: How did we do this year?

Our national network of students, teachers and parent advocates, has pushed – and won – significant victories. From expanding of virtual and alternative learning options, to securing full funding or more permanent status, our parents were there and their voices were heard.

Among this school year’s victors are Washington state, where parents rallied for and achieved full state funding for online students.  Georgia also made historic gains for virtual education by passing Amendment One through a statewide ballot initiative. School choice supporters captured a remarkable 58% of the vote, establishing for Georgia a permanent alternative charter school authorizer. The amendment reversed the state Supreme Court’s ruling and formalized public school choice for families throughout the state.

The list of victories goes on: For Michigan, it was avoiding a devastating 20 percent funding cut.  For New Mexico, it was supporting Governor Martinez in her veto of a one-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools. For Oklahoma, it was secured school funding in statute, thereby easing student transfers. For Oregon, it was deterring an unfair attempt to target virtual schools with increased bureaucratic scrutiny. As the scrapbook attests, parents fought with gusto for virtual, charter and magnet school options in 2012-2013.

This scrapbook tells another story too. We could not have realized these opportunities without the strong and vocal support of education leaders as and legislative champions in state capitals across the country. Coming out in support of new and innovative ideas that challenge the status quo isn’t easy. At an increasing rate, we are seeing the support we need and value every single vote of support. In individual states, these advances open doors to the families whose children need virtual public school as a viable alternative to traditional “brick-and-mortar” public school.  They also help ensure that choosing a virtual education model doesn’t carry with it the penalty of reduced funding.

On a broader scale, the victories chronicled in the 2012-2013 scrapbook reflect a growing national interest in virtual and non-traditional learning options. New state chapters of the national coalition emerged in Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wyoming.

School may now be out for summer vacation, but the parents of PublicSchoolOptions.org are already thinking about the school year ahead.  Without question, more work lies before us. Securing and maintaining public school options – as well as fair, equal treatment of public charter schools – takes perseverance. The victories of this year, however, reinforce our belief that our parent coalition members will continue to fight – and win – for what’s best for their children’s education. This is true from coast to coast and in diverse regions of the country.

Beth Purcell is President of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a national alliance of parents that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children.

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