Virtual School Meanderings

August 31, 2021

Virtual Schools Got Equal Pandemic Aid, Despite Little Disruption

A colleague of mine sent me this news item.

Virtual Schools Got Equal Pandemic Aid, Despite Little Disruption

By The Associated Press — August 27, 2021  6 min read

While many schools scrambled to shift to online classes last year, the nation’s virtual charter schools faced little disruption. For them, online learning was already the norm. Most have few physical classrooms, or none at all.

Yet when Congress sent $190 billion in pandemic aid to schools, virtual charters received just as much as any other school because the same formula applied to all schools, with more money going to those in high-poverty areas, an Associated Press investigation found.

“It’s scandalous that they’re getting that much money,” said Gordon Lafer, an economist at the University of Oregon and school board member in Eugene, Oregon. “There were all kinds of costs that were extraordinary because of COVID, but online schools didn’t have any of them.”

To continue reading, visit

At the time he sent it, I commented to our group that this was an issue that continues to bug me.

If the whole idea behind public schooling is that we collect taxes for the public good and distribute those public dollars across the system so that everyone has a base value for their education, why is it that my child gets funded at a lower rate because I’ve made the decision to send them to an online school?  I mean we don’t look at two brick-and-mortar schools and say – School A can subsidize use of public transit, whereas School B must run its own bus system, so we should fund them differently!

At the same time, why should my public tax dollars be used to line the pockets of greedy executives and shareholders who see students as widgets and their corporate goal is to maximum profit per widget?
This is the problem you have when you allow corporations to directly or indirectly run schools.  As an academic, the second question is the bigger one for me because it is one that legislators could do something about – if they weren’t so spineless, ideologically entrenched, or beholden to their corporate masters.  But I do have some sympathy for the parent who finds themselves in the first position.

November 27, 2020

McKinsey & Company – COVID-19 Education Response Toolkit

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 12:05 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

So a couple of days ago, these tweets scrolled through my stream.

So I decided to follow the link to McKinsey & Company in the first tweet, and after exploring around the website a bit, I came across:

COVID-19 Education Response Toolkit

Resources to help education decision makers respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19, developed in collaboration with UNESCO

Each chapter includes a framework for a potential response, emerging approaches from countries around the world, and a checklist of actions to consider. This resource can help countries, states, and districts learn from each other as they work to provide continuity of learning for students across the globe.

To continue reading, click here.

I don’t have the time right now to review it, but I’d be curious to see how much of what is written in the five chapters (i.e., Remote learning strategy, Re-enrollment, Remediation, Hybrid learning, and Organizing for the response) made its way into the Ontario response?

September 10, 2020

Commentary – Canada Needs A Temporary Minister Of Education

Last week, or maybe it was over the weekend, this opinion piece from The Globe and Mail came across my electronic desk.



Irvin Studin is president of the Institute for 21st Century Questions, and editor-in-chief and publisher of Global Brief Magazine.

Let’s get the banalities out of the way immediately. Education is obviously an exclusive provincial legislative responsibility in Canada, and I am not calling for any constitutional change whatsoever in this regard.

But Canada’s post quarantine education crisis, which is driving peak hysteria as the fall approaches, is now of historic proportions. It touches every aspect of national life (present and future alike), from economic recovery to pandemic management and public health and well-being across the country. I am therefore calling for urgent national leadership, resources and pressure to help us master the most basic imperative of any civilized country: educating our children and young people.

Strange fact: Canada is the only major federation in the world – and indeed, one of the only countries in the world – without a national minister of education. The United States, India, Germany and Australia all have proper ministers of education.

In all of these federations, as in Canada, the constitutional lead on education lies with the states or provinces. And yet, all except Canada realize formally that education is so fundamental to the health and destiny of the country that there ought to be a designated point-person at the national level constantly worrying about education and, fundamentally, the quality of the graduates and human capital being formed in our schools, in each generation, in order to ensure the success and basic survival of the country.

While the specifics of the educational crisis differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction across our vast country, the anxiety levels among Canadian parents, teachers and students are now universally high with respect to the mechanics and sustainability of the imminent return to school.

To continue reading, click here.

For those who are unfamiliar, the distribution of powers in Canada between the federal and provincial governments are found in sections 91-94.  In the case fo education, it falls under provincial jurisdiction according to section 93, and states:

Legislation respecting Education

93. In and for each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Education, subject and according to the following Provisions:

(1) Nothing in any such Law shall prejudicially affect any Right or Privilege with respect to Denominational Schools which any Class of Persons have by Law in the Province at the Union;
(2) All the Powers, Privileges, and Duties at the Union by Law conferred and imposed in Upper Canada on the Separate Schools and School Trustees of the Queen’s Roman Catholic Subjects shall be and the same are hereby extended to the Dissentient Schools of the Queen’s Protestant and Roman Catholic Subjects in Quebec;
(3) Where in any Province a System of Separate or Dissentient Schools exists by Law at the Union or is thereafter established by the Legislature of the Province, an Appeal shall lie to the Governor General in Council from any Act or Decision of any Provincial Authority affecting any Right or Privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic Minority of the Queen’s Subjects in relation to Education;
(4) In case any such Provincial Law as from Time to Time seems to the Governor General in Council requisite for the due Execution of the Provisions of this Section is not made, or in case any Decision of the Governor General in Council on any Appeal under this Section is not duly executed by the proper Provincial Authority in that Behalf, then and in every such Case, and as far only as the Circumstances of each Case require, the Parliament of Canada may make remedial Laws for the due Execution of the Provisions of this Section and of any Decision of the Governor General in Council under this Section. (50)

Marginal note: Quebec

93A. Paragraphs (1) to (4) of section 93 do not apply to Quebec. (51)

Having said that, Health is also a provincial jurisdiction – but there is a federal Minister of Health.  Interestingly, the first federal Department of Health was established in 1919 in response to the Spanish flu pandemic.  The modern Ministry of Health is largely focused on the Canada Health Act and the five principles of universal health care:

Public Administration: The provincial and territorial plans must be administered and operated on a non profit basis by a public authority accountable to the provincial or territorial government.

Comprehensiveness: The provincial and territorial plans must insure all medically necessary services provided by hospitals, medical practitioners and dentists working within a hospital setting.

Universality: The provincial and territorial plans must entitle all insured persons to health insurance coverage on uniform terms and conditions.

Accessibility: The provincial and territorial plans must provide all insured persons reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without financial or other barriers.

Portability: The provincial and territorial plans must cover all insured persons when they move to another province or territory within Canada and when they travel abroad. The provinces and territories have some limits on coverage for services provided outside Canada, and may require prior approval for non-emergency services delivered outside their jurisdiction.

Basically, the federal Government provides funding to the provinces through the Canada Health Transfer, and in order to be eligible for that funding the provinces must maintain these five principles.

So to review…  The federal Department of Health first began during a pandemic.  The main purpose of the federal Minister of Health and Ministry of Health is to maintain five general principles that all provinces must follow.  The main method the federal Government uses to ensure provinces maintain these principles is providing the provinces funding.  I’ll just leave this here…

June 24, 2020

How Did Cops End Up In U.S. Schools? | More Charter Schools Take Small Business Relief | And More

Note the item at the bottom of this newsletter that may be of particular interest to readers.


Welcome to Cashing in on Kids, a newsletter for people who think public education should be truly, absolutely, authentically public—produced by In the Public Interest.

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How did cops end up in U.S. schools? On her podcast Have You Heard, journalist Jennifer Berkshire digs into three cities—Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago—and goes back 60 years to another era wracked by mass social protest: the 1960’s. She talks with students in Boston and historians Matt KautzJudith Kafka, and Louis MercerHave You Heard

More charter schools take small business relief. Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, California, has been awarded $2 million in forgivable loans through a federal relief program meant to help struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mountain View Voice

Palisades Charter High School, in swanky Pacific Palisades, California, also took money from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “Since the government funds its operations, Palisades Charter High School’s revenue has not been affected by Covid-19. The school is also supposed to operate as a non-profit, not a business. Still, the school’s Chief Business Officer, Greg Wood, applied for a $4.606 million dollar loan from the PPP. He did so without receiving prior approval from the school’s governing board.” Patch

Charter regulations to be relaxed in Idaho. The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has put three of its schools on notice regarding their finances. But revisions are in store for the commission’s accountability model. “The revisions would ease up and streamline performance expectations for more than 60 charters under the commission’s purview.” Idaho Ed News

What resources are needed for a “just” recovery in public education? Parents, teachers, and activists came together to discuss the future of public education in Massachusetts. Speakers included Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Schools Lisa Guisbond, Medford City Councilor Zac Bears, teacher Suzie McGlone, and student Evelyn Reyes. Watch the webinar

How K12 Inc. expects to profit off of the pandemic’s school closures. The Hechinger Report’s “Future of Learning” looks at K12 Inc.’s outlook as coronavirus rolls on. “Problems such as low graduation ratesdismal student achievement and high student turnover at many K12 schools are the result of a business model that prioritizes keeping down the costs of educating students, said Neil Campbell, director of innovation for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress.” The Hechinger Report



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July 8, 2019

New Zealand – Proposed Technical Changes To The Education Act Regarding Online Learning

An item that may be of interest to my Kiwi readers.

Tēnā koe,

As you may know, the Government intends to replace both the Education Acts 1964 and 1989 with new legislation through an Education and Training Bill (the Bill). The Bill will consolidate, restructure and update material from the Education Acts 1989 and 1964. It will also implement the proposed reforms identified through the education work programme to date.

We are proposing to use the Bill to make technical changes by updating language to recognise developments in technology, and the impact this has had on teaching. We also want to make it easier for schools to work together using digital technologies to broaden learning opportunities for students.

We know that there are other issues associated with distance education that would not be fixed by these proposed law changes. At a later date, we will work with you to better understand these other issues, and how to better support the use of distance education in the education system.

Updating the language in our education law

Legislation would be amended to replace the term “correspondence education” with the term “distance education.”

This change would better reflect current practice which has changed as digital technologies have developed and evolved. While distance education may use some element of correspondence, it also includes a range of additional learning tools such as online classrooms, video and study groups.

Making it easier for multiple Boards of Trustees to work together

Under the current legislation, two boards may agree in writing for one board to acquire materials for, and supply them to, the other and / or to do work for the other.

We propose amending the legislation to allow multiple boards to enter into one agreement to work together (such as an agreement to operate as a Virtual Learning Network).

We are seeking your views on the proposed change, before the Government makes a decision on including it in a Bill.

Recognising that schools can collaborate together to deliver learning online

Under the current legislation, a student enrolled at a State school may receive education at, or from, another specified school, subject to the board of trustees’ agreement.

We propose amending legislation to clarify that this includes education resources offered online or delivered using digital technologies.

How to have your say

Please email any feedback you have on these proposals to by 18 July. We would also be happy to arrange a phone call or skype conference to discuss this proposal, so please let us know if you would like us to do so.

Feedback will inform advice to the Minister on final proposals that would be submitted to Cabinet and, if approved, would be reflected in the wording of proposed new education legislation. Feedback and documents associated with the engagement process meet the definition of official information, and are therefore subject to the Official Information Act 1982.

Ngā mihi,


Ben O’Meara
Group Manager, System and Schooling Policy,
Education System Policy

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