Authorities Assaults on Parental Selection in Digital Ok-12 Public Schooling in Virginia: A Prologue

Legacy Elementary School, Ashburn, Virginia.

by James C. Sherlock

Very few like the concept of full-time online education for children.

They do not find it an attractive option for teachers in front of the children in normal school classrooms.

Neither do I.

They believe, and science corroborates, that classroom training has significantly more value than teaching in the classroom.

But concepts are one thing; Reality is another.

A full-time virtual K-12 option (FTVK12) has been available in America for two decades. Some parents, grappling with the realities of the situations in which they found their own children, chose this option from the start.

They make this choice for the same reason that parents who can afford and have access send their children to private schools. They find the local public school to be a poor environment in which to educate their children compared to other options available.

Perhaps the local public school has a history of underperformance and parents believe the underperformance is related to more than just classroom teaching. Your child may have special needs that the parents believe could be better addressed at home. Maybe your child was hanging out with the wrong amount at school and they wanted to get him out of there for a year or two.

Maybe a lot of reasons. Parents’ reasons.

The total cost of virtual public schools is less than half what governments – state, local, and federal – combined spend on stationary public school education. In some states, the District of Columbia, and some places in Virginia, the cost is far less than half.

Most states, including Virginia, pay the bill for parents who choose to join a privately run virtual public school licensed by their Department of Education.

You can object to this on public policy grounds, but it’s worth noting that, with four years of total control over Richmond, the Virginia Democrats have made no overt attempt to change the laws that provide for it. They have certainly tried, and to some extent succeeded, to suppress the privately run virtual public school, but they have not changed the law.

In those states where the parents have to pay the virtual school bills, only that person has access to it.

Demand has been higher than you might think.

FTVK12 Public School will be provided to approximately 17,000 Virginia children this school year. There are more than 1.2 million public school children in the Commonwealth. But 17,000 is a lot of children, even with less than 1.5% of the public school population.

As a school division, the FTVK12 public schools would be the 20th largest of 132 divisions in Virginia.

An even higher number of high school students, up to 40,000, are enrolled in Virginia as homeschoolers. By law, these parents are not entitled to state funding. Many do not want a state curriculum for their children for religious reasons.

In Virginia, as in most states, the options are for non-home-schooling parents, private providers offering state curricula, and state-certified teachers who are paid with public school funds.

The reason is simple.

Commercial providers offer online schools tailored to each state and District of Columbia. Many compete nationally.

They are successful when their students are successful. They are good at what they do or they lose in the market. They keep investing their own resources in improvement or they lose. They listen and satisfy the parents or they lose. The competition sharpens their quality.

The commercial providers offer state-certified teachers who offer state-certified courses. They take all comers – IEPs, 504, English learners – everyone; and they provide them with every non-teaching service they can get in stationary schools.

They are diverse. By far the largest commercial FTVK12 public school provider in Virginia has a 22 percent black student base, as does the state public school system as a whole.

You are measurably successful.

There is a significant surplus of trained and certified teachers ready to teach in these schools. You teach from home. Many are certified in several states. Capacities in each state can be expanded or closed by private firms to meet demand without interrupting programs.

The surplus of teachers wanting to teach from home in online schools is being fueled by teachers leaving stationary schools.

The crisis in the supply of teachers in stationary schools. Unfortunately, the demand will increase, driven by a dwindling supply of stationary teachers.

Good teachers go. We watched with horror as the reputation of the teaching profession was destroyed by the actions of teachers’ unions and unionized school authorities during COVID.

Attacks on teachers with traditional values ​​were staged by the pedagogical graduate schools and their graduates who run the VDOE, the state ministry of education and our public school systems. Et tu, brute?

Everyone wants good teachers for the children, but fewer and fewer people actually want to do this job.

CrippleAny shortage plagues Virginia public schools before the teachers who have them call in sick. A recent nationwide survey shows that 48% of existing class teachers are considering changing jobs.

We wish they wouldn’t go, but we understand why they do.

Leaking pipeline. In addition, the pool of new teachers is shrinking. So there isn’t enough help along the way.

From “A Pipeline That Is Drying Up: Trends in Teacher Preparation Programs”

While student numbers have grown in 32 states, teacher prep programs have not kept pace. From 2010 to 2016, only six states saw an increase in the number of new teachers emerging from teacher preparation programs. In the rest of the United States, the number of new teachers has declined by over 30 percent nationwide, with nearly 66,000 fewer new teachers graduating in 2016 than in 2010.

From the U.S. Department of Education, Title II Reports: National Teacher Preparation Data, February 2021:

In 2018, Virginia fewer than 384 fewer new teachers graduated from teacher prep programs in Virginia compared to 2010. That’s a -10.69% change over the years. The percentage change (in enrollment in teacher prep programs in 2018) was -45.70%. As a reference, the K-12 population decreased by 3.03% over the same period. (Brackets from me)

The short-term trend is even worse.

In 2015, the total number of degrees in both traditional (IHE – Institutions of Higher Learning – course) and non-traditional (non-IHE-based alternative programs) Virginia teacher programs were 4,016 (3,602 of which were in traditional programs). Just three years later, in 2018, those numbers had dropped to 3,208 and 2,900 respectively.

For reference, the K-12 student population in Virginia declined 3.031% over the same period. There is clearly a divergence between supply and demand.

Not only will online public schools persist, the need for them will increase, whether we like it or not.

The Empire Strikes Back. The Virginia government of Ralph Northam, which worked with the budget / finance committees (but not the education committees) in the General Assembly, spent four years attacking the only public FTVK12 school option available when Northam took office. You know, the successful, privately run.

This year the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) massively expanded the number of its own public FTVK12 schools – by 1,400%. In a year. This year.

What could go wrong

We won’t know. The FTVK12 school of the VDOE has no regulatory authority. And no rules B.Because it’s approved in a grant law and not an education committee law. If you check the Code of Virginia, you won’t find admission to full-time school. The only mention of the Virtual Virginia VDOE school that came up when I was scouring the administrative law was in. 8VAC20-131-60. Exchange student.

Virginia public schools accept standard and verified credit units from other Virginia public schools, Virginia’s Virtual Learning Program, Virtual Virginia, and state-run programs.

That’s it.

Did I mention that the VDOE regulates its private or business area competitors? And that the VDOE state school is the only FTVK12 option offered to parents by the school areas without their own program? To the best of my knowledge, Chesterfield is the only department that does, or at least has done it once.

Registrations in the new state school were driven not least by a simultaneous move of the City of Richmond Public Schools (RPS).

I notice that the RPS headquarters is an eight-minute walk from the VDOE headquarters.

Last spring, RPS canceled a long-term contract with by far the largest commercial provider where RPS hosted students from across the state. The provider tried to get contracts to replace the “capacity” defined by the VDOE, which it had lost in Richmond (long history), but could not replace everything at short notice.

The parents of 4,000 students from Virginia were denied this option because the provider was overbooked according to the VDOE regulations, had to refuse some and close registrations prematurely.

Coincidentally.

Looking ahead. I will tell you this story. You will find that Virginia’s “system” for FTVK12 public schools gives Rube Goldberg a bad name.

You will also find that government organizations, as briefly introduced above, have been at war with both Virginia’s laws and the successful privately run options.

You win.

The underlying facts are astonishingly complex because Virginia’s laws, written more than a decade ago, were poorly thought out then and are inadequate in today’s environment.

It will take a number of reports to explain this:

  • the huge gaps between what is currently in Virginia’s laws, what is required in the future, and what Virginia must do to address it;
  • what other states are doing with rational systems. No other state or district of Columbia does this like Virginia. Why on earth should they ?; and
  • What are the recommendations for revising current Virginia Laws to streamline our own “system”?

For my friends on the left, you will find that you too want the laws rewritten to support your position. I guarantee it. So keep your fire on until you understand the current mess. It cannot be justified.

This is the prologue.

Under the current “system” of virtual K-12 education, Virginia is unable to consciously, rationally or well meet demand.

It is certainly unable to maintain legal parenting, but it has become increasingly inaccessible over the past four years under the attacks of the Northam administration, the budget and finance committees of the General Assembly, and the RPS.

Updated January 8 at 3:39 PM and 4:14 PM

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