Friday, July 16, 2010

Online School Options for Georgia Parents, Students Face Major Setback

/PRNewswire -- Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education raises strong concerns that two approved online high schools were forced to withdrawal due to low and unfair funding from the state. This week both Kaplan Academy of Georgia and Provost Academy Georgia will no longer provide virtual high school curriculum to students.

In 2008, Georgia passed landmark legislation HB881, requiring the Georgia Charter School Commission to provide fair and equitable funding for online public charter schools. The typical student in Georgia receives over $8,000, yet virtual charter schools only receive around $3,500 --among the lowest of any state.

Thousands of public school children are being denied funding despite a law mandating equal treatment. According to the International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACOL), the national average of funding provided to online public schools is $6,500 per pupil. Still significantly less than the average child receives in brick and mortar schools.

"It is concerning that two new online schools set to provide high-level education to Georgia students are forced to close because the state refuses to uphold a law providing equal funding for virtual schools," said Rene Lord, Chairman of the Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education. "Experts and national studies all say funding for virtual schools should be at or near the national average. The Commission has failed the children by its disregard for their education and future."

The unenforced law creates a serious lack of options for parents and children. Currently, Odyssey School operated by Georgia Cyber Academy, is the only statewide virtual charter school alternative for kindergarten through middle school students and their parents.

Odyssey teaches around 6,000 students and is the largest public school (brick and mortar or virtual charter) in Georgia. The Academy is also looking to add ninth grade in August with approximately 600 new students. Odyssey continues to make significant gains in student achievement, outperforming Georgia state (brick and mortar school) averages.

Virtual charter schools are statewide, full-time public schools that employ state-certified public school teachers to oversee and guide students' work. Under this program students are able to work at home via computer and internet connection under the guidance of a parent or responsible adult.

Accountability requirements are the same for virtual charters as every public school in the state. Students participate in state assessment tests and are required to meet attendance protocol. The school uses an established curriculum that consists of thousands of lessons in the typical core subjects that align with state standards and all of the teachers are also publicly certified.

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