- Editor's note: This is a letter sent by Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barsinger asking parents to write their legislators to support HB 494, which seeks a one-year moratorium on virtual charter schools.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
We need your help.
You may have seen in the news that 18 school districts in the area received a proposal from Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. to operate an online charter school in all 18 districts. Batavia Public School District 101 was included in this proposal. The online school would be open to students in kindergarten through grade 12.
Funding for the online school would come directly from state dollars that normally go to fund our districts. We find this problematic at a time when state education funding is challenging, at best. The proposal calls for Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. to receive over $8,000 in state funding for every BPS101 student who enrolls in the online school. If the student drops out of the online school and wants to return to BPS101, the funds remain with Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc.
In addition to a loss in state funding, there are also serious concerns about K12, Inc., the for-profit company that is contracted to run the online charter school. At a public hearing in March, our board questioned a representative from K12, Inc. Based on K12, Inc.'s performance, we have concerns about the online school's curriculum, quality of teachers, support for students with special needs, low test scores, lack of extra-curricular opportunities and graduation rate.
In Illinois, charter schools must be approved by local school boards. If they are not approved, the charter school can appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which is operated by the Illinois State Board of Education. Although all 18 local school boards voted down the proposal, Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. has said it will appeal the decision with the Illinois State Charter School Commission. The commission may supersede local control and overturn the local school boards' decisions.
Legislators in Springfield have already started the process of placing a one-year moratorium on the establishment of virtual charter schools. This would allow legislators in Springfield to study and gather as much information as possible before approving these controversial online schools.
The HB 494 bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on by the Senate in the next few weeks. This is where we need your help. We are asking parents to contact the Illinois Senate president and your state senator to ask them to support HB 494 for the following reasons:
- Virtual charter schools were not in existence at the time the current law was created;
- The current funding formula for charters is not applicable. Virtual charter schools do not require brick and mortar buildings, transportation, food services, security, etc.; and
- Research is inconclusive as to the effectiveness of K-12 virtual charter schools.
For your convenience, we have provided the following contact information:
John Cullerton, Illinois Senate President
Karen McConnaughay, Senator 33rd District
Jim Oberweis, Senator 25th District
Linda Holmes, Senator 42nd District
To be clear — it's not that we do not support online education; it's that we do not believe that the for-profit K12, Inc. and Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. provide a better educational opportunity for our students.
Thank you for your support.
Dr. Jack Barshinger
School District 101