The Debate Over Virtual Schools

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


An appeals court ruling to cut funds for a virtual K-8 school in Wisconsin has rippled through the interwebs this week, causing tears among some students and applause from one teachers’ union.

Online learning is all the rage among home-schoolers these days. A Wisconsin superintendent praised the virtual school program for better serving kids with learning challenges, medical conditions, and special needs, in addition to high-performing students, students who need to move at their own pace, and students who require a more flexible schedule. Which could also read as: “Whew! Thanks for taking all these difficult kids off our hands!”

But folks at the National Education Association say a program with unlicensed teachers and no student-to-student interaction should not be draining tax money from traditional public schools.

The debate raises at least two interesting questions:

1) Are we so unhappy with current public school curriculum models that we are turning to online ones?

2) Why are so many kids—90,000 students in 18 states—leaving the bullies and heavy backpacks behind for the virtual classroom? In other words, is there anything public schools can learn from online schools to improve the experience for kids?

Funny thing is, the campaign trail these days is pretty much devoid of any education talk whatsoever. I’m sure the words “schools” and “learning” seem pretty dull compared to “surge” and “terror,” but just think, if the war does go on for another 10 years, the students we’re having problems teaching now will be 10 years older—and that much harder to reach.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate