The evidence is becoming clearer and clearer. E-School charters are a tax payer rip-off that delivers awful results.
At Join the Future we have focused most of our attention on the poor quality Ohio's e-schools have delivered. Providing the highest quality education is, after all, the most important aspect to schools. In article after article, we have highlighted the packed virtual classrooms, and the poor graduation rates they produce.
But now comes news that not only do they produce awful results in terms of educational quality, they are also a huge pay payer rip off. First for some context as to the scope of e-schools in Ohio
Enrollment in online schools in Ohio has passed 30,000, more than 12 times the number in 2000 when the first "virtual" school opened in the state.
Only Arizona had more students enrolled full time in online schools in 2010-11, according to an annual report by the Evergreen Education Group.
Although scattered around the state, the online students combined would make up the third-largest district in Ohio — about the size of the Cincinnati schools. The online schools are charters, independently operated but publicly funded.
Ohio's online schools have become a big business. The state paid online charter schools $209 million in 2010-11 to educate students, or an average of $6,337 per student.
Results are mixed at both for-profit and district-run schools. Online students have lower graduation rates than those at traditional schools. They attend college at a lower rate. At the same time, other measures have shown online students learning as much as, or more than, students in many districts.
It's a growth business. And reporting from StateImpact Ohio and the Plain Dealer indicate why
Robert Mengerink didn’t know how much an online school really costs to operate — until he started one.
When he learned this summer that the agency he heads, the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, could offer a basic online program for less than half of what the state pays online schools per student, he was taken aback.
The cost? About $2,980 per student for a full course load all year.
That's more than 50% cheaper than the for-profit charter operations such as ECOT, and it's not an isolated example.
TRECA Digital Academy, another publicly operated provider of online K-12 education, says it can do it for about $3,600 per student.
That potential savings highlights questions that critics of online schools have been asking for years: What really happens to that taxpayer-provided money? Is most of it going to educate students? Or are schools pocketing a large profit while cutting corners for students?
That's a really good question. For a Governor and legislature that talks about reducing government spending so much, we are left wondering why they continue to allow such a laissez faire attitude to these terrible schools.
We recommend you read the full State Impact report, it really should open some eyes.