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Local School Superintendents Say Virtual Charter School Financially Burdens School Districts

| August 21, 2014

DISTRICTVSVIRTUALPKG from WAGM-TV on Vimeo.

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Recently we told you about a student who enrolled in the states first Virtual Charter School. While there may be some students that are excited about Maine Connections Academy, local school superintendents don’t feel the same. The school advertises itself as a free public virtual school that comes at no cost to the student. But as News Source 8’s Angela Christoforos reports.. Local school districts are obligated to pick up the tab in tuition fees…

Maine Connections Academy is the first virtual charter school to open in the state. On the school’s website, it’s advertised as a “tuition free” public virtual school. It comes at no cost to the students, but SAD 42 Superintendent Roger Shaw says someone has to pick up the tab, and in this case it is the local school districts.

SAD 42 Superintendent of Schools Roger S. Shaw said, “If a student enrolls from SAD 42 in Maine’s Virtual Academy it’s going to cost SAD 42 approximately 9500 to pay the tuition bill for that student.”

Shaw says 2 students from SAD 42 have enrolled, and RSU 39 Superintendent Susan White says 4 students have enrolled from her district.

RSU 39 Superintendent of Schools Susan White said, “It’s frustrating that the state is expecting us to make these payments and they’re not living up to their end of the deal of the 55 percent funding of public education.”

According to Maine State Law, “For each public charter school student, the school administrative unit in which the student resides must forward the per-pupil allocation to the public charter school.” That amount per student varies depending on the district. Although this law applies to all 6 of the charter schools in the state, Maine Connections Academy is more accessible to students because it is online.

“Many budgets have not been passed yet for this next school year, take 25, 30, 50, 75 thousand dollars more away from the districts because they have to pay for students to go to a virtual school. And I think it’s quite obvious what the impact will have, it will be devastating,” said Shaw.

Shaw and other local superintendents argue that if the Virtual Charter School is considered public education it should be funded the same way all other public schools in the state are. It should be funded through general purpose aid so that no one district is particularly hit hard financially.

Shaw said, “Why does a school that does not have buildings, does not have busing, any of those capital costs that are associated with running a public school, why wasn’t that taken into consideration when the funding mechanism was established for the virtual school?”

Some local superintendents say families have the right to choose where their children will go to school, but do not believe local school districts should be obligated to bare the financial burden.

Shaw says that the money to pay for the enrollment of students in the Virtual School was not budgeted this year, so the school district may have to eliminate services to accommodate the cost.

Maine Connections Academy is a subsidiary of Connections Educations. It’s a national corporation that was purchased by Pearson for 400 million dollars in 2012.

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