Virginia SB 598 is a Big Step Backwards

Online learning increases access to great teachers and great content—that’s a central tenet of Digital Learning Now, the blueprint for next generation learning introduced in 2010 by a bipartisan group chaired by former governors Bob Wise and Jeb Bush.
But online learning only increases access where state laws remove artificial barriers.  Virginia SB 598 would have done that as introduced in January—it promised open access to all state approved programs.
But school district lobbying resulted in changes to the bill that dramatically reduce student/family options.   The new language limits choice to local district offerings which defeats the purpose of the bill.  The whole point of learning online to is to provide every Virginia student great options and flexibility in rate, time, and location.
Every student in Virginia should have access to every Advanced Placement course, every foreign language course, and every advanced science course.
Imagine if citizens of Virginia could shop online but only from stores in their neighborhood–silly, right?  That’s what is proposed here.  The proposed changes to the bill are not about quality education; they are about protecting school district budgets.
Governor McDonnell’s position is clear, “A child’s educational opportunities should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her neighborhood or zip code.”  He added that we need a “fair funding formula” for educational options.
As a director of the Virginia-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) I want to see more and better options for Virginia students.  In its current form, SB 598 is a big step backwards for Virginia students.

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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