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Editorial: Debate over online schools the wrong one

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House Bill 460 takes aim at New Mexico’s online schools because they are operated by private companies/have out-of-staters on their governing boards.

Not because they don’t educate their students. Or because they aren’t based on best practices. Or because they lack sufficient accountability measures. But because of who manages/administers them, and where they are from.

In a state where the status quo heralds as good news the fact only three of every 10 students fail to graduate in four years, that seems like the wrong reason to kill an education delivery system geared toward students who work better on their own at their own pace, whether that pace is behind or ahead of their designated grade level.

Critic Max Bartlett of Albuquerque Interfaith says online schools don’t teach students how to work in teams or discuss ideas, and tax dollars should not flow to out-of-state corporations. Under that standard, home schooling should be abolished and state contracts with out-of-state firms canceled.

Sponsors Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, would essentially shut down the New Mexico Virtual Academy, chartered by the Farmington school board and run primarily by the for-profit K-12 Inc., and keep a second fully online school, which will contract with Connections Academy, from opening its virtual doors. Larry Palmer of the Farmington academy governing council says to date only private vendors have expertise to run such schools.

The state’s flourishing charter school movement shows one-size does not fit all students. Many already take online courses through traditional public schools.

Rather than continue to fight school choice, lawmakers would do better to ensure all of New Mexico’s public schools serve their students, delivering proficiency and diplomas whether they attend online or in person.

If the N.M. Virtual Academy and others like it don’t deliver results, then by all means consider ways to cut funds. But don’t do it to protect the status quo of a system that isn’t exactly turning in a stellar performance.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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