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The House And Senate Have Approved Virtual Education Bills. Now What?

students at computers

(Bartmoni/Wikimedia Commons)

Both the Senate and House have approved their own versions of a virtual education bill, but some worry the proposed new rules for virtual education moving forward don’t do enough.

The state board of education made policy recommendations focused on virtual education ahead of the session. Those include limiting enrollment and growth for virtual schools and stricter regulations for virtual charter authorizers. The bills approved by lawmakers so far focus mostly on orientation for virtual school families also included in the recommendations.

But some Senate lawmakers raised concerns during a debate last week about funding for virtual schools, and a lack of accountability.

Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) says he doesn’t want to see the issue go away after this session.

“I’m scared that if we close this book this year, it’s going to be a while before we get back to revisit this,” he says.

The original version of the Senate bill approved last week would have included limiting enrollment at virtual schools and reduce the fees authorizers can collect for overseeing virtual schools. That language was taken out before it passed.

House Education Committee chair Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) says scaling back virtual school and authorizer funding could disincentivize efforts to improve failing programs. And he says, the state board already has more oversight authority for charters than it does for a traditional public school.

“They have the right to take it over, but they really don’t even have the right to close the school,” he says. “Why are those kids any different than the kids in a virtual program?”

A bill Behning authored would also require virtual school authorizers to be more involved in student tracking and monitoring, and prevent school districts from overseeing virtual charter schools.

The Daleville school board voted last week to terminate the charter agreements the district has with two of Indiana’s virtual schools, after allegations the schools failed to educate students

Lawmakers will consider both bills and any changes before voting on a final version in the coming weeks.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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