Online education is such a program.
Students seek out online classes that
meet the educational needs that cannot be met in their local school’s classrooms. Students in small, rural communities take Advanced Placement
and foreign language courses that are
not offered at their schools. Migrant
workers find continuity of instruction
wherever they go. Students mix work
and school without struggling with
conflicts of time. Sick and injured students work from hospital rooms and
their homes. Athletes and musicians
stay with their studies despite their
travels. Homeschooled students have
options that were not possible before.
The disaffected have another opportunity to find success.
In the past, these options were unavailable. Students had to fit into the
traditional program or leave because it
was simply impossible to deliver quality
instruction under those circumstances.
Today we do not force students into a rigid educational path and
drive away those who do not fit. Today we differentiate instruction
so that no child is left behind.
Today there is no such excuse, and
schools can offer high-quality instruction to any student in any place at any
time. Online education opens doors to
educational possibilities never before
Unfortunately, although many students are taking advantage of those options, many cannot. Some state laws severely limit the number of online classes students can take. In other states,
schools impose those same limits, or
they refuse to provide online programs
at all, even though it would be easy for
them to do so. Consequently, students
who need online services must leave
their local schools and seek some other
source, either in an expensive private
school or another school district beyond their normal boundaries.
That must change.
Public education has the moral
and legal obligation to meet the educational needs of the public it serves,
and today that means public education must include online options for
its students. It is sad that some school
districts do not feel that moral obligation, but when they don’t, legislatures
have an obligation to step in and require it. Taxpaying citizens have the
right to demand that the schools their
taxes support meet the needs of their
—John Adsit is a consultant specializing in
online education. He was a public school teacher and the administrator of a district’s online
program, and he served as the executive manager of curriculum for KC Distance Learning.
not intend to fund an online school
in each district, and the districts don’t
have millions of dollars in the bank
that they don’t already need, what is
the point of the legislation?
What if states contracted with outside providers to operate the online
education programs instead of expecting the public schools to foot the bill
and shoulder the workload?
What contractors have already
spent millions of dollars during the
last decade to create K– 12 online
schools? It’s the for-profit corporations like K12.com, Insight Schools,
and Connections Academy. These
companies are already operating in
about 15 states and receive state tax
dollars that would normally go to the
local school district. Mom and dad
can still have a free education for their
children (including a complimentary
computer) and keep their kids safe
from the perceived dangers of face-to-face education. Of course, most
I suspect that this would be an unfunded mandate—you know,
where the government demands some expensive change with
one hand and reduces your operating budget with the other.
parents would prefer the traditional
school. But for every child who signs
up for the online commercial version,
the local school loses the tax dollars
for that student. If schools lose even
10% of their student bodies, they may
be forced into severe cutbacks or even
In the decade-long battle between
for-profit online education companies
and public school districts for the tax
dollars that come with every student,
corporations have had one weapon
that local schools, by law, cannot
wield. Corporations can, and regularly do, make campaign contributions
to their favorite state legislators.
I don’t know everything about the
relationships between corporations
and state senators, but I do know that
for-profit online schools are starting
to make a lot of (taxpayer) return on
their multimillion-dollar investments.
According to the Washington Business Journal (November 2007), K12,
Inc., went public with 6 million shares
after generating revenue of nearly $60
million in 3Q 2007, which was an increase of 57% from 2006. That can buy
dinners for a lot of state legislators.
—In 1995, former high school teacher Tom
Layton founded CyberSchool, the first public
school program to offer Web-based high school
credit courses. Today he is working on Russian
language courses for U.S. high school students
taught by Russian teachers in Siberia.
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