State proposed budget cut devastating for online public school students
SEATTLE, April 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington Families for Online Learning is outraged at the state's budget proposal to cut 20 percent from the basic education dollars for students in Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) programs. With over 200 school districts that utilize ALE programs, the state may disrupt the education of over 55,000 students.
Some of the ALE programs serve the state's most vulnerable youth, keeping them on track to graduate on time. Washington's successful online public schools are also under the ALE umbrella. They are best known for their innovative and individualized programs, and are the most accountable public school programs in the country.
Craig Anderton, Washington Families for Online Learning board member said, "All public school students deserve fair and equitable funding across the board. Whether the public school is ALE, online or a traditional brick and mortar school, they are all educating our children to excel in this globally connected world. I certainly hope the legislature realizes that cutting 20 percent from this program will likely force these schools to close, harming over 55,000 students state-wide. We want our children to receive a high-quality education that suits their learning needs—please don't take that away from them."
The 20 percent reduction assumes a false assumption—that online programs are cheaper. Washington online public schools utilize Washington state certified teachers to teach students, require students to meet all state standards and comply with state regulations under both the Digital Learning Act and the ALE laws as well as every other report and accountability measure required for brick and mortar schools. The operating costs are not cheaper, they are just different.
According to a study by the Bell-South Foundation, the operating costs of online programs are about the same as the costs of operating brick and mortar schools (less capital, food and transportation costs, which are already separated from the basic Full Time Equivalent (FTE) calculation in the 2011-2013 Washington budget). For a full-time program the average costs are around $7,000—far more than the Washington state FTE.
According to the Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA), which operate online public school programs in three school districts in Washington, the cost per student for the program is over $5,900 per student. Also more than the current amount of FTE received per pupil. Then to cut an additional 20 percent; this is potentially devastating to a district's ability to provide innovative, individualized online programs to students statewide.
"If Legislators are concerned about how an online program spends its money, well, that is simple," said Sapna Aggarwal, Washington Families for Online Learning board member. "Under SB 5310, passed in 2009, the school must produce an annual report to verify the ways in which the taxpayer's money is spent on student's education." Aggarwal added, "Let's not jeopardize our children's education. These programs provide a solid learning experience that give children the extra attention they need to succeed."
Washington Families for Online Learning is a coalition of parents, children, teachers and supporters who strive to educate others, particularly elected officials and the media, about the benefits of online public school programs and the need for high-quality public school options. To read personal stories from online public school students and for more information about Washington Families for Online Learning visit http://www.waonlinefamilies.org.
SOURCE Washington Families for Online Learning