Monday, February 01, 2010

Competition in Education

Online schools siphon area districts’ funding

WENATCHEE — Competition from online schools cost North Central Washington districts nearly $830,000 last year.

For every student who transfers out to join an online school full time, about $5,000 in state education money transfers out with them.

Here’s how it works: An online teaching firm, such as Insight or Washington Virtual Academy, contracts with a school district to provide its curriculum, support and sometimes its teachers. When a student enrolls in the program, they transfer school districts.


The school district offered its homeschool students local support and oversight from teachers, plus a $300 stipend for curriculum materials. An online provider out-bid the district with a $2,200 a year stipend. About half of Methow Valley’s homeschool population transferred out. Since then, about five or six families came back to the district because they missed the local support, Wenzel said.


“My job as a superintendent is to make sure that we’re listening to the voice of parents and students and do what we can within the school district to meet those needs,” said Wenatchee Superintendent Brian Flones. “If we can’t do it, I have no problem with people looking at other alternatives.”

Wenatchee Superintendent Brian Flones said all the right things about student choice and giving parents what they want. However, here's one of the proposals:

• Create a policy that creates an approval process for students who want to transfer out to take online courses. By law, districts are required to set up some sort of policy regarding online learning by August. A state model policy was published online earlier this month at

Which translates into "Let's make it more difficult to transfer out."

I realize that times are tough out there, but it makes sense for the funding to follow the student. We use a quite a few online options at our house, though we are independent of the public school. Online education costs our family about $3000 per year for our 3 school age children.

(By the way, Wenatchee schools spend between $5249-$5843 per student.)

Here's another twist to the story:

Most online schools running in the red, state report says

OLYMPIA— Most online programs are losing money.

Six of the 10 top online schools ran in the red last year, according to a state report released last month. The biggest debt was about $527,000 at Spokane Virtual Learning, followed by iQ Academy of Washington run by Evergreen School District, at $494,000.

Could it be that online programs are losing money because they are run by the school district?

“I think one of the misconceptions that is relayed to the public is that virtual programs cost less to operate,” said Susan Stewart, Head of Schools for the Washington Virtual Academy. At WAVA, the teachers are employed by the school district under the teachers union contract. The students receive several boxes of books, supplies and materials, including microscopes.

WAVA’s high school, run by Monroe School District, lost nearly $300,000 in 2008. WAVA’s Steilacoom-based elementary- and middle-school program netted $580,00, the second-most profitable online school in the state.

Call me cynical, but I'm not surprised they are losing money if the teachers union is involved.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, public school, public education, education


Sebastian said...

I am amused by the suggestion that online schools are taking away something that rightfully belongs to the school district. If the students moved out of state or even across district lines, we would't talk of siphoning away money. The kids in the online programs are no longer in the previous school, thus reducing the number of classrooms, lunch rotations and recess monitors needed.
You never hear of a new coffee shop siphoning away money from the older restaurant. You do hear of stores that provide more of what customers want, thus receiving their money in return for goods and services. The other shops have the choice of offering more of what customers want or losing money.

Janine Cate said...

>I am amused by the suggestion that online schools are taking away something that rightfully belongs to the school district.

I admit that I actually laughed when I read the beginning of the article.