by Max Brantley
Good story from Rob Moritz of Stephens Media on an underhanded little ol' amendment from Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home to open the flood gates of state money to support home schoolers with tax dollars.
State Education Director Tom Kimbrell and others have objected to multiplying the 500-student cap on allowable state funding for the Arkansas Virtual Academy to 5,000 and allow it to move into getting money for high school students. This could put $28 million into a venture that is nothing like a real school.
The virtual acadlemy is styled as a charter school. It began as an offshoot of a scam developed by slot machine junkie Bill Bennett and others. They came up with a private corporation to sell assistance to home schoolers. Then they set about pushing ways to transfer funding equivalent to the amount states spend on conventional public school students to the likes of the Virtual Academy. No gyms. No cafeterias. No full faculties. No buses. Etc. But the same funding that real schools receive for each student enrolled, in Arkansas more than $6,000 per student per year. It makes a voucher system for private church schools, even those teaching magic in place of science, seem positiviely responsible.
Anyone is welcome to home school. Private enterprise is welcome to sell material and support to those who choose to do so. But transfer $6,000-plus a year to enrich operators of this system for each student?
And for what? Results across the country haven't been impressive. A sample bit of commentary from Diane Ravitch, the education who's marked virtual school failures all over the country:
So far, there is not a scintilla of evidence that virtual instruction is good education, at least not in the way it is being sold by its advocates. Test scores are low; graduation rates are low; attrition is high. And why in the world should children in grades K-8 be isolated from any peer interactions during their formative years?
More and more evidence is emerging about the importance of non-cognitive skills, such as the ability to communicate with others and work with others. Can that be learned in isolation?