Public schools lose too when online students fail

An investigative report on Colorado virtual schools shows that Colorado taxpayers will spend $100 million this year on online schools going to K-12 online students who are no longer participating in the program.

For 10 months, the I-News Network and Education Week investigated what was going on with 10,500 Colorado’s K-12 online students beginning with the 2008-09 school year. They found that half the online students left within a year and returned to traditional schools, often further behind academically than when they started. However, funding for those students stayed with the online school.

While Colorado online schools are thriving, the public schools are being hit twice—academically and financially. Public schools have to find the money in their budgets to educate the online students who return and are behind, but the money to do that is still with the online school.

Michigan’s SB 619 would remove all limitations on cyber schools with the only restriction being that “operators have experience delivering a quality educational program that improves per pupil academic achievement.” That’s the same sales pitch many Colorado online school operators gave to recruit students. Yet, one of every eight online students drops out of school permanently—four times higher than the state average.

Since the Senate Education’s package of so-called education reform bills (SB 618-624)—which will probably be taken up this week—aims  to destroy public education, Michigan public schools can probably expect the same dilemma as Colorado.