Stop virtual vouchers: Call your representative!
Date Posted: 4/22/2013 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE
Call your Representative before 2 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday April 23, and ask him to oppose House Bill (HB) 1926 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian). This bill would create a virtual voucher program that forces school districts to pay for online courses. HB 1926 would open the door to statewide virtual schools by allowing students to enroll full-time in online courses offered by entities that include private for-profit vendors such as K12 Inc. Studies have shown that students who receive full-time computer-based instruction are more likely to fall behind in reading and math, or even leave school altogether, than students in classrooms with a live teacher and other students. More on HB 1926: HB 1926 expands eligible providers from districts, charters and universities to include private schools, private or non-profit education providers, approved entities that offer virtual education, and corporations. HB 1926 allows for the creation of statewide virtual charter vouchers. The bill repeals provisions of current law that prevent a virtual charter school from enrolling students statewide. Under the bill, a for-profit course provider could either partner with a non-profit charter-holder or create a subsidiary nonprofit corporation to act as a charter-holder. The charter, which would require no staff and no facilities, would enroll students statewide and funnel 100 percent of the weighted average daily attendance (WADA) it received to a for-profit online course provider that would provide 100 percent of the educational services to students. HB 1926 removes local control and district oversight of a student’s learning environment. The current language prohibits districts from denying enrollment in a virtual course based on failure to meet the district’s standards or rigor. Why remove the ability for districts to exercise quality-control measures when determining which courses/providers meet local and state-set standards? HB 1926 does not address the concerns of students with disabilities seeking equal access to online courses. Students with print disabilities are often unable to access the content in digital materials because the content is not designed to be compatible with the assistive technologies these students use. Assistive technologies (AT) are used to overcome the barriers of students’ disabilities, but AT cannot overcome the man-made barriers of inaccessible content. Examples of inaccessible content are locked PDFs, text presented as graphic images and Flash content. The result of inaccessible learning and assessment materials is that students with disabilities would not receive equally effective access to the general curriculum, as mandated in §504 of the Rehabilitation Act, §300.172 of the IDEA, Title II of the ADA, and Title I, Sec. 1001, (2) of the No Child Left Behind Act. HB 1926 does not hold private providers accountable. Districts are held accountable for student’s performance in courses and statewide assessments. The Commissioner of Education is in the process of approving a new accountability rating system for districts and charter schools. Shouldn’t online course providers be held accountable in the same manner? ATPE believes providers should be assigned a campus ID and given a rating based on successful completion, drop-out rates, district, parent and student reviews, and level of rigor. Parents and taxpayers deserve accountability for their tax dollars. HB 1926 is not a Texas solution. It is a bill designed to serve the interests of profit-driven online vendors with poor track records when it comes to educating students. The benefits of technology and online programs should not be steered toward private companies that run virtual schools with little or no oversight. To find contact info for your representative, enter your address here. Be sure to identify yourself as an educator and a constituent.
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