Opinion

Online charter schools under attack

Photo illustration: Africa Studio, via Shutterstock.

Imagine enjoying your summer holiday vacation only to learn that special interest lawmakers beholden to the California Teachers Association are voting to close down your child’s school.  As a parent, you’ve never received any school closure information or a single news report.

Sound far-fetched?  Actually, it’s not.  When the state Legislature reconvenes on Aug. 1, lawmakers will have the opportunity to close down a handful of online public charter schools.  It’s a sneaky effort to catch parents off-guard.  Over 20,000 California students are at risk of being displaced – literally kicked to the curb.

The State Legislature is choosing to ignore what’s in the best interest of our students nor consider current data illustrating substantial progress of each online school.

AB 1084 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) is a direct assault on LGBTQ, medically-conditioned and learning-challenged students.  If AB 1084 becomes law, the fate of individual online public charter schools and the unique student populations they serve are at risk.

So parents want to know:

• Where will my student go to school if his/her school is forced to close down?

• How will individual school districts address the unique needs of students who have medical conditions or learning challenges?

• Why would a lawmaker consider closing down a safe education option for students who are bullied in traditional schools?

Assembly Bill 1084 undermines a parent’s right to choose what education option is best suited for his/her child.

Rather than following State law — which provides oversight by individual County school districts — the State Legislature is choosing to ignore what’s in the best interest of our students nor consider current data illustrating substantial progress of each online school.  Worse yet, lawmakers have failed to reach out to any parents for feedback.

That’s why California Parents for Public Virtual Education, a non-profit parent volunteer organization, is alerting online school families throughout the state about Assembly Bill 1084.  It’s time that lawmakers trust parents — and support online public schools that best fit our students’ academic and social needs.

For many children, a traditional school setting simply is not a good fit. A child might find the classroom is not moving at the right pace, depending on whether they are gifted learners or need more one-on-one instruction. In some cases, a child might have medical reasons or other challenges that make it difficult for them to participate productively in a group environment.

Technology makes this possible, but it doesn’t mean students in online public schools are lacking measurement standards, opportunities for socialization or personal support from teachers. Virtual students are partnered with teachers who meet with them and help track their progress, and group activities are arranged throughout the school year, including community days, field trips and club projects.

Academic standards for online schools are just as high as those at other public schools. Our teachers are state-certified, and student academic progress is rigorously monitored by state education officials.

So we’re calling on parents throughout the state to voice strong opposition to Assembly Bill 1084.  We won’t stand for state lawmakers arbitrarily deciding what’s in the best interest of our children.  We need to stop the special interest assault on our special kids and our online schools.

About the Author: Dr. Nicole Conragan is the president of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, a volunteer organization made up of parents with students in public virtual and blended-learning public charter schools who advocate on behalf of access to online education, quality curriculum, and stable funding.

Ed’s Note:  Dr. Nicole Conragan is the president of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, a volunteer group of parents with students in public virtual and blended-learning public charter schools.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: