Last week I saw the following items scroll through my Twitter stream.
These tweets, along with blog entries from EdReformer entitled Unfair Virtual Schools Funding in GA, Group Claims and Georgia’s Virtual Schools Funding Formula, led me to do some digging over the past week.
It appears that the basic issue is that an average brick-and-mortar student in the state receives about $8,000 in funding, while the state only provides $3,500 in funding for a cyber charter school student. Depending what you read, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning is recommending either full funding or at least $6500 (which is the national average).
Regardless of what the national average is for the funding of cyber charter schools (as per pupil funding variss significantly from state to state), the main issue is how much funding is needed to provide cyber charter schooling in Georgia? I ask because as best I can tell, the Georgia Cyber Academy (a K12, Inc. school which served students in grades K-8) has been operating for at least a year. In that year they received per pupil funding of $3,200. The question is was that enough to provide a quality education. If you look at the GCA website, it does indicate that “GCA is proud to have met AYP for the 2008-2009 school year.” This would seen to suggest that $3,200 was enough money, particularly given that K12, Inc. is a publicly traded company and, I assume, would not be in Georgia if it was a money losing venture (as a side note, their stock has traded above $20 a share since 24 February – having spent most of the previous 15 month below the $20 mark).
Funding in Other Jurisdictions
This is actually very much like the Funding And Legislative Issues In Ohio For K-12 Online Learning that occurred last year. In that instance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics the per pupil funding for brick-and-mortar students was around $9,940 – with $5,702 going to instruction and $3,911 going to student support services. Cyber charter schools had been receiving $5,700 in per pupil funding (which I would assume was 100% of the instructional funding) and the Governor had proposed to cut that funding to $1,500.
A couple of week ago, in an entry entitled Funding Virtual Schools – Part One, I outlined another funding situation. It was based on an example taken from a Classroom 2.0 webinar by Lisa Gillis. In Wisconsin, Insight Schools, Inc. was able to operate at a cost of $6,480 per pupil, while the state provided schools an average of $9,760 per pupil in funding. Similarly, in announcing Another New Online Program In Michigan I described how this school district expected it would cost about 79% of their per pupil allocation to education these students online. In that same entry, I mentioned how another Michigan programspent about 84% of their per pupil allocation on educating a group of students online.
I mention these examples, because in the EdReformer entry entitled Georgia’s Virtual Schools Funding Formula there is a link to a spreadsheet. The link reads “Cyber_Charter_School_Funding_Formula_-_Revised” and I believe the spreadsheet is the internal formula mentioned in the Unfair Virtual Schools Funding in GA, Group Claims entry. However, one thing that I did notice was that it said the cost of the cyber charter schooling was $2,945.17 per pupil and the state allocated $3,500 per pupil – meaning that the cyber charter school used about 84% of its per pupil allocation.
Personally, I don’t think there is an easy answer to this question. I do believe that it is more cost effective to educate a student online, and thus the online programs should not receive the same per pupil funding. But how much funding should they receive is a totally different question.
What about you? What do you think about the funding of full-time K-12 online learning? How should we fund cyber charter schools?
I should note that the issue has also been raised in:
- the Athens Banner-Herald in an article entitled, “Advocate calls for expanding cyber academy“;
- an article from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation entitled, “Ga. Students Left with Virtually No Online School Opportunities“; and
- the Education Week’s Digital Education blog in an entry entitled, “eLearning Update: Considering Caps and Cash“.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s entry Day 5 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog, this is my attempt at a “current events post”.