Entering 2012, the state of Virginia was coping with the effects of a faulty funding formula, which did not provide equity for all students statewide, that the existence of full-time virtual schools had exposed.
Senate Bill 598 was introduced in January to fix the problem by insuring fair funding for public school students who wanted access to full-time, statewide virtual schools that had been approved by during a rigorous review process by the Virginia Department of Education. The fixes—themselves worked through in a lengthy and rigorous process—insured fair funding not only for the students, but also in a way that could work for the districts.
In the last week of February, however, changes were introduced to the bill that struck out all of the well-balanced language in the bill designed to fix the faulty funding formula.
What was left was a bill that exacerbates current inequalities in the system, as it is designed explicitly to limit student access to online learning programs based on geography. In essence, as the bill is now written, districts would have veto power over students’ ability to enroll—or stay enrolled—in an online program that meets their needs if the program is housed outside of the district.
What a ruse. A bill introduced to fix the state’s funding problems of online learning in a way that would strengthen students’ ability to tailor an education for their unique needs will now do the exact opposite.
Legislators should scuttle this immediately. If nothing comes out of this legislative session, those playing games with the bill will have gotten that for which they asked—at least another year of a faulty funding formula that works for practically no one.
As the United States attempts to march forward toward a student-centric education system powered by digital learning, creating geographic barriers to confine a medium—the Internet—that inherently knows none, is absurd. That’s part of the wisdom behind Florida Virtual School’s motto of “Any time, any place, any path, any pace.”
Policymakers ought to embrace it and allow online learning to fulfill its promise. In Virginia, fixing the funding formula to level the playing field for all students would be a good start.