Virtual school students await school funding decision

(KSN photo)

MAIZE, Kansas – Tenth grader Caroline Nordberg goes to school like most anyone her age, with one key difference: her school is on her iPad.

“If you want to go and do something, you don’t have to do your work right then, you can come back and do it later, and it gives you more flexibility,” she said.

Caroline and her three siblings do homework and complete reading assignments through the Maize Virtual Preparatory School, which is one of 93 virtual academies in the state that could have state aid reduced as much as 50 percent as lawmakers look for a way to more equitably fund public schools.

“The support we get from the teachers, the support we get from the staff, the materials we get, and the opportunities we get for field trips and group interaction, that would be a big loss for our homeschooling,” Elizabeth Nordberg, Caroline’s mother, said.

That loss is one virtual school supporters are making sure state lawmakers hear about before advancing any proposal.

“There’s no way you can operate a school on 1,900 dollars a student,” Gary Lewis, the director of Maize Virtual Preparatory School, said after testifying in Topeka on Tuesday.

But that’s what both the Senate and House funding plans would ask virtual schools to do, reducing almost $14.5 million in state aid to virtual schools statewide to help pay $129 million to equalize public schools and comply with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling by July 1.

“Cutting virtual funding by 50 percent would, in essence, close all virtual programs in our state,” Lewis said.

According to data from the Kansas Department of Education, three virtual schools in the Wichita metro area would see some of the largest reductions. Andover’s eCademy program would lose $2,204,885, Maize’s virtual preparatory school would see a $774,252 reduction, and Wichita’s Learning2 e-school would see its funding reduced by $496, 138.

Administrators think the proposal is deceptive, by taking from source of school money to fund another, especially one they say more efficiently educates students at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“We are schools just like our brick and mortar schools,” Lewis said. “We educate students who are students just like students at our brick and mortar schools.”

Students like Caroline Nordberg say they are hoping to continue their online education.

“I’m kind of sad because, you know, a lot of people will miss the opportunity of being able to stay home and it’s just a really cool opportunity that people get,” she said.

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