With Public Money, Online Charters Grow
Carol Pogash with The Bay Citizen, wrote an article about online charter schools that in my opinion did not portray the online charter school as I know it and have known it for the past 6 years.

The article talks about the “unorthodox” online charter school which is paid for by taxpayers, but created and operated by a for-profit company.

Yes, online charter schools hire a private, for-profit company to provide vital services that support the education of our students. The fact is, all traditional district schools have similar vendor relationships with different for-profit entities. Schools contract with private companies to provide transportation, food services, textbooks, tests, instructional materials, instructional services, and schools often hire private companies to provide professional development activities for teachers. So let’s not confuse the facts here, online charter schools contract with private providers for services just like district schools do, but the services may be different.

The article states, “Behind the blue screen, however, is a host of unanswered questions about a system that seemingly requires little overhead. There are no libraries, cafeterias, playgrounds, coaches, janitors, nurses, buses or bus drivers — but can cost taxpayers per student as much as or more than traditional public schools.”

And to that end online schools do not have to pay electric bills like the B&M “orthodox” schools do or water bills, and we don’t have the need for grounds maintenance or the purchase and upkeep of a school marquee.

Let’s look at some of those behind the scenes unanswered questions and answer them. Online charter schools’ operating costs include things like a building for administration, student and teacher computers, educational and technology services, school materials and the delivery of those materials, curriculum, expenses for B&M locations for things like state standardized testing and student-focused school events. And, online schools are not exempt from other costs such as school counselors, psychologists, special education services, and other state-required services that B&M schools are responsible for. The focus here is on the student.

The article mentions minimal accountability. You don’t get more accountable than in an online model. Online charter schools are public schools run by non‐profit, independent school boards made up of volunteers. The board is there to represent the interests of the taxpayers and is financially responsible for the school. Online charter school boards hold private providers accountable for the school’s daily operations and so do the parents. If a parent feels that a school isn’t helping their child to succeed academically then they’ll go to a different school. Parents are the final judge, and if too many parents are not satisfied with a school, it could close down. Online charter schools are highly accountable to the public and must meet the same federal and state requirements as a B&M district school and teachers in an online charter school are state certified and/or state licensed.

This article warps the true picture of parent/student/teacher contact. Students have the opportunity to interact with their teacher every day as well as receive individualized instruction when needed. Parents and students interact asynchronously and synchronously throughout the year with their teacher. So another truth is that students in an online school actually get more one-on-one time with their teacher than they would in a B&M school and that holds true for the parent as well.

Although students who school online have different requirements than their B&M counterparts, they deserve to be funded at the same rate as B&M students. It’s important to be informed about the costs to operate an online charter school so funding for our students is fair. Parents choose this public school option because they want the best education possible for their children; any funding difference between online public charter schools and public B&M schools would directly and negatively impact our children who choose this option.

The fact is that we need options. Our children all learn in unique ways, they are not one size fits all and it’s not possible for every child’s learning style to be met by the nearest neighborhood brick and mortar school. So along with magnet schools, charter schools, and other open enrollment policies, 26 states now have the option of online schools which offer many benefits, some of which are:  
  • Students can school at their own pace
  • The flexibility to school where you want
  • The ability to revisit lessons
  • A safe environment 
  • Perfect fit for those who are homebound or have medical restrictions 
  • Each child has an individualized learning plan 
  • It’s more convenient to travel during the school year
  • Sports or other time consuming pursuits can be more easily followed
  • Dropout recovery charter schools are saving kids who have fallen through the cracks
  • HS Dropouts can go back to school in an online environment in a non-embarrassing way
  • A child’s education is not limited by geography
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  1. you are right on with your article. There is a lot of oversight, and with the teacher's unions viewing charters as a direct threat to their control- charter's are under a lot of scrutiny. Here in Ca, the charters get less per student then the traditional schools do. You are right, the final deciding factor are the parents- if they do not think the product has worth, they walk.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and adding insight right there from your home state.
    My recent post IN RESPONSE TO

  3. lreiser says:

    Great responses Lori. Just a few comments to add… Parents are their child's first and best teachers! Its great to have this option especially if your local public schools are lacking great enthusiastic teachers. Its also very frustrating to the student who really wants to learn but finds that they are spending the majority of their school day waiting on others to stop misbehaving, and driving their teachers and classmates crazy!

  4. So true! Thanks for your comment.
    My recent post IN RESPONSE TO

  5. People can make an article "say" whatever they choose. It can be so frustrating!!

  6. I agree, Liz, it can be frustrating, but in this case the author of the article is painting a picture of our VA's that is so misleading. Thanks for stopping by.
    My recent post IN RESPONSE TO

  7. Excellent article Lori. Great response

  8. You made some really good points. Things I've not considered. I'm sorry that people choose to attack a system that is different from the one that they support.
    We as parents should have more choices and you're lucky to have the ones available that you've had!
    My recent post The Kid Who Taught Me to be a Mom

  9. Love your breakdown Lori! You explained it all so well! I was just telling someone the other day that I really think I would have thrived in this type of environment in school. Instead I was bored and ditching 90% of the time… still pulling A's, but not really learning anything. Seems like kind of a waste when you really think about it. A system like this allows students to learn at their own pace though, and that is huge in my mind!
    My recent post I've Stopped Breathing

  10. Christine says:

    Well said and explained Lori!

    One of the criticisms I also hear over and over…is 'charter schools' DRAIN money from the local districts. Many B&M school have blamed money issues on the lost of PPR money for the students from their districts that make the choice to attend charter schools. Again, that is not the WHOLE picture!

    Here in Ohio, PPR money 'follows' the student to their school of choice..the B&M does NOT have to educate the students they have lost to a charter school…but grab the over all PPR total for the year and put that out there as a reason for budget issues!

    Our B&M friends that are doing this whining should take a look at the 'man in the mirror' and ask WHY over 90,000 Ohio students are attending charters or ask themselves how they could have better meet the needs of the students they have LOST!

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