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    Supporters of Senate Bill 619 are looking to expand virtual charter schools to give parents of K-12 children more learning options. .

    Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that cyber schools offer a “powerful way to deliver learning in the 21st century,” according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

    Senate Bill 619 would lift the current cap on the number of online cyberschools allowed in Michigan, and it would also lift the cap on the number of students that can be enrolled in these institutions.

    The bill would also allow the programs to receive the same funding as traditional public schools.

    Ohio is a state that currently has thousands of students enrolled in its cyberschools.

    Innovation Ohio released a report in May stating that the state’s 21 E-schools had “dismal” academic results and costs twice as high as those of traditional public schools.  Despite this report, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is still looking to expand cybereducation efforts in the state.

    Critics also point out a higher danger of fraud with cyberschools. There is the issue of whether or not the student is doing their own work, since there is no teacher in the room to regulate, particularly if the student is not required to come in person to take a proctored test.

    Tracking enrollment in cyberschools is also proving difficult. Just like in regular public schools, Ohio cyberschools get funded on a per-student basis, so misreported or unclear enrollment numbers pose a problem.

    The U.S. Department of Education has also expressed concerns about the rapid increase of cyberschools when the academic results of the programs are still unclear.

    It is surprising to some that despite the lack of research and the problems expereienced in other states, Michigan lawmakers still seem willing to increase the presence of cyberschools in the state. Especially surprising to Gary Minon, a Western Michigan University education researcher, is that they are willing to fund the virtual schools at the same level as traditional schools, even though cyberschools usually cost much less.

    “The funding piece isn’t right, and neither is the accountability piece,” he told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

    Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, feels that increasing the accessibility to cyberschools would bring Michigan up to date with new learning ideas.

    "We need to be innovatie and give people options," she said. "This is a different generation."

    House Speaker James Bolger, R-Marshal, said he thinks cyberschools will open options for students that want to go a less traditional route.

    “I don’t think they would have worked for me. But I think a variety of options is good, and a combination of options may be best," he said.

    Cyberschools can also be very helpful to populations such as homeschooled students and students that have dropped out of traditional school because it wasn't working for them.

     

    Sources:

    http://michiganvotes.org/2011-SB-619

    http://www.mackinac.org/15087#3613

    http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2011/10/cyberschools_would_receive_fun.html

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