A Reality Check For Oklahoma 'Virtual' Schools

Thursday, November 17th 2011, 9:51 pm

By: News On 6

The state school board backed off some new rules for online classes Thursday, after local school boards complained they would cut into funding for students at brick and mortar schools.

The rules would have required schools to pay for students to take lessons online, and provide teachers to oversee the program.

Virtual schools and online classes are an increasingly popular option for students, but there's always been a clear division of funding between local, publicly supported schools - and their online counterparts.

The state board of education changed that to requiring local schools offer, and pay for online instruction for any student who wants it.

"And we all believe in online education and that should be available and we ought to be responsible for those dollars and accountable for those results. This was very rushed without an opportunity for input, none of us had the opportunity for input," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard. Superintendent.

It's called the Supplement Online Course Program. It requires districts to allow students to take up to 5 hours of daily online instruction. Students spend the 6th hour physically at school.

The reasoning from the state was that it would promote school choice, clarify the rules and standardize availability.

Tulsa's support of online classes is limited, primarily to a small hybrid school that meets at Promenade Mall, with a teacher on-site. Students here have to meet the same standards as those in traditional classrooms.

Ballard says diverting public funding for online programs to outside vendors would be a fundamental shift.

"Do they meet the same standards that ours does? We have no idea whether they do or not.

We believe in accountability and this looks much less than accountable to me," Dr. Ballard.

Thursday, the state school board reversed the new rules - which they approved only three weeks ago - so for now, school won't be required to pay for the online option. The issue isn't dead forever, but probably is for this year.


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