The December 24, 2010, NewsOK article, “Year in education defined by reform, budget cuts and virtual schools,” reveals a burgeoning online enrollment of K-12 students in northeast Oklahoma:
One district — White Oak Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma — lost accreditation for a matter of minutes when the state Board of Education voted to strip the school of its funding, but reversed its decision after further consideration.
The issue at White Oak is a growing trend that should be on the radar for 2011 — virtual schools.
Only about 50 students at White Oak actually attend the brick and mortar elementary school in the rural community.
But 987 students from across the state are enrolled in the district’s virtual program run by the for-profit company K12 that offers online classes and teachers to students who are essentially homeschooled.
White Oak receives the funding for those nearly 1,000 students and passes all but five percent of the money on to the virtual school provider.
While the White Oak school is the virtual program that came under scrutiny, there are several similar online schools enrolling students across the state.
The article quotes Kathy Taylor, former mayor of Tulsa and author of Oklahoma’s unsuccessful grant application for federal RTTT dollars, as an enthusiastic supporter of the education reforms included in Senate Bill 2033 which made our state’s RTTT application possible. 20 year state superintendent of Oklahoma public schools, Sandy Garrett, is also quoted in the article, but not with respect to her views on K12 virtual schools.
See my July 2010 podcast, “Free, Online K-12 Education Options for ALL Oklahoma Students via Epic One on One Charter School,” and August 2010 post, “Legal Fight Over Publicly funded Charter Schools and Online Education in Oklahoma,” for more background on the virtual and charter school disagreements which continue in our state.
I wish this most recent NewsOK article could have obtained some quotations directly from Sandy Garrett on her views about K-12 virtual education in Oklahoma. The picture painted in this article of the varied opinions in Oklahoma surrounding virtual schools and charter schools is very incomplete. It will be interesting (to put it mildly) to see the changes in store for our state when newly elected state superintendent Janet Barresi takes office in January. There have been several articles in our news in past weeks about the transition office and meetings for incoming Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. Interestingly, nothing has been written and published (that I’ve seen in mainstream media – please correct me if I missed them) about transition work in the Oklahoma State Department of Education preparing for the transition of power from Garrett to Barresi.
While I expect some things to change in the Oklahoma SDE under Barresi, like more enthusiastic support of charter schools, I am pessimistic the overall focus on high stakes accountability and testing will change. We’ll find out pretty soon.
It’s amazing to me that White Oak Public Schools continues to be open for business as apparently (judging by the NewsOK article) a publicly funded revenue stream for one private company: K12 Inc. While I have friends who homeschool and LOVE the K12 Inc. curriculum, I find it odd the company apparently has a near monopoly on public education dollars funneling into White Oak PS. Epic 1 on 1 Charter, in contrast, proposes giving Oklahoma students and families choices about the online curriculum they choose to use at state taxpayer expense. Their enrollment for 2011-2012, btw, starts January 3 and runs through April 1. The Oklahoma SDE under Garrett successfully prevented Epic from enrolling students last summer for the current academic year, but it appears enrollments will move forward for next year.
One thing this recent NewsOK article definitely got right: 2011 will be an interesting year for Oklahoma education on many fronts.
Hat tip to my father-in-law for sharing this article with me, via email from the subscription-based NewsOK iPad application.
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