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Virginia: Moving Forward or Backward in Education?

Entering 2012, the state of Virginia was coping with the effects of a faulty funding formula, which did not provide equity for all students statewide, that the existence of full-time virtual schools had exposed.

Senate Bill 598 was introduced in January to fix the problem by insuring fair funding for public school students who wanted access to full-time, statewide virtual schools that had been approved by during a rigorous review process by the Virginia Department of Education. The fixes—themselves worked through in a lengthy and rigorous process—insured fair funding not only for the students, but also in a way that could work for the districts.

In the last week of February, however, changes were introduced to the bill that struck out all of the well-balanced language in the bill designed to fix the faulty funding formula. Read More…

Why Restrict Digital Learning?

“Finn: All students could access high-quality education”
by Deirdre Finn
Op-Ed
Richmond Times-Dispatch
March 6, 2012

Virginia lawmakers are being asked today to consider legislation (SB 598) that severely restricts students’ access to a high-quality education. This legislation prohibits students from enrolling in an approved virtual school that is offered by a school division other than their own.

In this day and age, the Internet makes geography irrelevant to getting a great education. Virtual learning tears down the greatest barrier to high-quality education — access to a rigorous curriculum taught by effective educators. With virtual learning, all students — particularly those in rural regions or urban centers — can access the same high quality education typically enjoyed by students in affluent suburban neighborhoods. Students who live anywhere can learn anywhere. For many students, the option to attend a virtual school is a lifeline to an education that prepares them for success in college and challenging 21st-century careers.

Technology has changed the way we live, work and play. It has increased productivity in the workplace and enhanced communication with family and friends. And it has the power to transform education.

Imagine if the law applied the same restrictions to other areas of life. Limiting online shopping to stores in your neighborhood would likely cause outrage. Restricting access to Web-based learning should cause the same reaction.

Last year, I was part of a team of independent researchers that reviewed and analyzed education policies in every state in the nation for Digital Learning Now!, a national initiative launched by former Govs. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and Bob Wise (D-W.Va.) to harness the power of technology to provide an education that prepares each and every student for success in college and challenging 21st-century careers. Virginia scored well in that analysis, but this legislation runs the risk of reversing all the progress Virginia

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The hits just keep on coming

dontchangeThe opening of Virginia’s latest charter school (one of only four operating around the state) has been nothing but a roller coaster ride, not to mention a textbook example of the more-often-than-not contentious relationship between school districts and their charter schools when districts hold all the cards under a weak charter law:

Since the start of their dance with Richmond Public Schools (RPS) in the spring of 2008:

Patrick Henry was forced to go through the RPS approval vote process three times

Patrick Henry was initially left out of this year’s RPS budget

Patrick Henry is to be held to higher standards than other RPS schools, but will receive 21 percent less funding

Patrick Henry was “generously” granted leased space from RPS at a cost of $1 per year – facilities which came with a crippling renovation price tag of close to $1 million

Enough already?

Apparently not. Yesterday, a school more than 2 years in the making, one that will offer families a longer school year and a curriculum focus not available in traditional Richmond schools, was faced with the possibility of being on the receiving end of one more hit – the potential refusal by RPS to hire their first principal just as the final preparations for their inaugural school year get under way. (more…)

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