Amid questions, cyber school bill moves to Gov. for signing

SB 619 is on its way to Gov. Snyder for his signature after the Senate concurred with the House on the expansion of cyber schools. The vote was 23-14. Just as in the House, the bill did not receive immediate effect so SB 619 won’t go into effect until April 2013.

The bill includes a gradual lifting of the cap on cyber schools. By 2014, five cyber schools can be created with 10 in 2015 and a limit of 15 after 2015.

There is also a gradual increase in the number of students enrolled in cyber schools with 2,500 in the first year; 5,000 in the second year; and up to 10,000 in the third year. According to supporters of the bill, more than 10,000 are on a waiting list to enroll in the two currently authorized cyber schools in Michigan.

Now that the bill is passed, questions over the number of students that could be enrolled in cyber schools have come up. There is concern that the maximum 15 cyber schools in 2015 could each enroll 10,000 students in the third year of existence. That means cyber schools could drain traditional schools of funding and as many as 150,000 students—or 10.5 percent of Michigan’s students.

If the number of students enrolled in cyber schools is more than 1 percent of the total statewide enrollment in public schools in 2012-13, the Department of Education can stop the issuing of any new cyber schools the next year and no new students could be enrolled. That percentage increases to 2 percent in 2013.

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) is maintaining that the 2-perecent cap “was clearly our intent and will clearly be the law.” If he’s wrong, a huge portion of per-pupil funding will end up in the pockets of private corporations and Michigan voters will have been robbed of their tax dollars.

Under the new law, cyber schools will also be required to submit a monthly report to the Michigan Department of Education. However, the two-year report on the state’s current cyber schools has yet to be seen.

It was obvious that changes needed to be made to the original bill. While the final bill is far from being perfect, your calls and emails to legislators made a big difference.

The Senate also concurred on SB 621 to expand public school options for private and homeschooled students and SB 622-623 and 709-710 dealing with dual enrollment.