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Sen. Colbeck: State Should Lift Cap on Charter and Cyber Schools

Removing the caps on cyber and charter schools "incentivizes all schools to provide excellent education services or risk the loss of per pupil funding from the students that choose to be educated elsewhere," Colbeck writes.

- The following statement was submitted by the office of state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton). He sponsored a bill in the state senate to lift the cap on cyber schools.

Michigan is close to joining the 21st century by passing a bill to lift the cap on the number of cyber schools authorized in the state. Over 10,000 students and their parents have applied to the two existing cyber schools, yet state law limits the total number of enrollments to 2,000 students – so long as 600 of them are documented dropouts.

Detractors of lifting the caps on cyber schools have resorted to a simple strategy – fear. They cite fears of lack of oversight. They cite fears that these schools are “unproven”. They cite fears that kids will not have proper socialization. They ignore the facts in favor of stoking fears.

The facts are that cyber schools have the same oversight as public school academies for which the cap was lifted last year. The facts are that cyber schools beat state averages seventy-seven percent of the time – even with the dropout provision. If the same standards being applied to cyber schools were to be applied to traditional schools, many traditional schools would be closed. In regards to socialization, the facts are that kids do interact with one another on a regular basis through field trips and extracurricular activities.

So, why are detractors stoking these fears? While some may be doing so out of pure motives, the majority are doing so out of a fear of their own – financial. You see, in Michigan, the funding follows the students. If a school does not perform well enough to attract students, they not only lose headcount, they lose funding.

In the interest of educational excellence, removal of caps on the number of charter schools and cyber schools in the state not only provides parents with more options for the education of their children, it also incentivizes all schools to provide excellent education services or risk the loss of per pupil funding from the students that choose to be educated elsewhere. In other words, “all boats rise”.

Last year, 238 Michigan high schools did not graduate a single college-ready graduate. Sixty-one percent of our high school graduates require remedial education prior to engaging in higher education studies. We are the 21st most funded state on a per pupil basis, yet we consistently rank in the mid to high 30’s with regard to performance. Clearly, our public education system in Michigan needs to do better. Rather than improve their own performance, though, these detractors and their willing accomplices in the House are seeking to block access to a proven means of education that has already been adopted in 24 other states.

The salient question is who should decide where children get to go to school, parents or a government bureaucrat? For me, it is an easy answer – parents. If you agree, please contact your state representative to let your views be known.

Debi Ash March 27, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Actually, charter schools have more oversight and financial accountability than traditional schools. This should not be an issue as it is addressed in the original charter school law. Accountability is a "key talking point" the MEA has put out. I do admit that there may be some problems with online charters in other states - but we cannot base this decision on "what might be". There will not be "less" money for districts - as money is distributed on a "per pupil" basis. If a school is doing well for a student - there is no need for that student to leave that school. Also, charters can work with local schools to assist them with their non-traditional students. Yes - full disclosure - I am the founder of a potential online charter high school - but we are not a for-profit or run by an EMG. We are a group of educators, parents, and instructional designers looking to help resolve our states drop out issues by providing a strong educational model that meets the needs of non-traditional students. Look the young man who cannot make it to school 3 out of 5 days because of cancer treatments and tell him that because an organization who fears the competition is against he - he has no chance of attending Dara-Oak Academy.
Christa DiNapoli March 27, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Randall - glad you asked about those 238 schools. The Senator noted in his letter that “last year, 238 Michigan high schools did not graduate a single college-ready graduate.” While this statistic should be alarming to all who care about the quality of education in our state, the Senator’s use of it to support his argument is disingenuous and misleading. Here are the REAL facts: The students served by these schools represent just .007% of Michigan’s total high school population. Furthermore, the majority of these schools are Dropout Recovery Programs or Alternative High Schools. Only 16 percent are what's known as "comprehensive" high schools, and of those, 9 percent are located in Detroit. (College and Career Readiness, Another Viewpoint., Appendix B. Macomb County Superintendent Association, 23 May 2011.) The standard referred to is actually met by only 24 percent of students nationally (The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2010. Rep. ACT, Inc., 2010.)
Debi Ash March 27, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Not all cyber charters are for-profit; it just so happens - due to the current cap - the only two in Michigan are. Should we not think about the thousands of students who are NOT being served by traditional schools? Should we not open the conversation about what public schools can learn from innovative instructional strategies and alternative learning environments? You cannot say cyber schools are "hooey" when many of the traditional schools are actually running their OWN cyber schools AND the State also offers full-time virtual classes through Michigan Virtual Schools (MVS). Do not punish students and online education because of one bad apple. Allow for the cap on cyber charters to be lifted so MORE choices can be allowed. Accountability will be provided - its in the original charter law. If K12, Inc is no properly running its school here in Michigan? It is up to GVSU, their authorizer, to put a stop to it. Again, before jumping on the "K12 means all cyber charters are evil" bandwagon that the MEA has started - look at the success of other online high schools - public and private. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/online-high-school-program-at-great-mills-high-hailed-as-success/2012/03/13/gIQAn4tgBS_story.html http://www.nuvhs.org/About.html http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/education/stanfords-online-high-school-raises-the-bar.html?pagewanted=all
Scott Craig April 03, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Here are the finding about Colorado where they lifted the limit on CyberSchools from two legitimate articles (Education Week October 2011 and NY Times December 2012) Half of online students end up leaving within a year. When they do leave, they're often further behind academically than when they started. Online schools produce three times as many dropouts as they do graduates. One of every eight online students drops out of school permanently -- a rate four times the state average. Millions of dollars are going to virtual schools for students who no longer attend online classes. The churn of students in and out of online schools is putting pressure on brick-and-mortar public schools. Virtual school dropouts often try returning to local schools, which must try to educate them despite not receiving the foundation grant from the state. On-line virtual schools maintain high student-teacher ratio, ranging from 70 for elementary students to 270 for high school classes. Most students have little or no contact with their teacher. Typically, they may speak by phone once every other week. The CEO of the for-profit K-12 Inc. was paid $5 million of taxpayer monies last year, while teacher pay and benefits have been substantially reduced in our local public schools. Based on these facts, why should we throw precious taxpayer dollars at an approach that appears to be significantly flawed?
ConcernedParent May 13, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Debi, we can also look at the failures of online and charter schools! The fact is that we do not need an expansion of the cyber or charter school system in NORTHVILLE! What we need is a return of the funding that was stolen from the K-12 Fund last year. We need to be able to fund our public schools properly. We need less than 30 children in an elementary classroom. We need not to lay off our media specialists. We need to have the money to upgrade computers that are 8 or 9 years old. There is a huge difference between a brick and mortar school offering online options and a cyber school that receives the SAME per pupil allowance but has no janitorial staff, no bussing, no buildings to maintain. If you are truly committed to seeing Northville remain the town is its, attracting families to live and work in, we MUST first restore funding to its public schools.

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