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State Deficits and Opportunity for Charter Virtual Schools...


From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Feb 08 2003 - 10:32:13 PST

In Wisconsin...with a potential 3 billion dollar deficit and the governor
making his necessary cuts...many schools are having to cut programs,
staff...and ponder on survival in up and coming years.

Smaller schools in northern Wisconsin are going broke. One solution of state
legislators has been to consolidate, but the sparse heavily forested towns
would mean some kids being on a bus more than 2 hours in the morning just to
get to the nearest school, and another 2 hours going home. Not very

Well...the latest trend with the open enrollment laws has been the creation
of the virtual charter schools. With this, a school district's board members
can vote to establish a virtual division of its district. A number of
teachers are hired to do nothing but maintain contact with homeschoolers K-7
online, and organize about every 1-2 weeks a general get together for social
interaction his students and parents. Eventually plans are to go K-12...

The state/gov provides a computer free of charge to each household. The
strategy has the potential to save a district, with a flooding of
advertising of their program. This past week, I received a package of three
applications for enrollments for my own children (though mine are grown up
and gone now). Though we live 3 hours from the Appleton/Fox Valley area of
Wisconsin, virtually...we could enroll in the school district down there.
How this brings in money to the district is the state moneys of about
$5,000-$7,000 per child is then taken away from the local district where the
child lived and attended, and is redirected to the new school enrolled.

Just this past week, a struggling northwoods school district's school board
voted to begin a charter virtual school of their own, and now according to
the open enrollment laws have a window of about three weeks to seek out,
appeal and find new applicants.

The fear of educators of course, is that the state government might prefer
to allow northern school districts to continue to flounder until the option
of virtual schools undermines and causes all the schools to belly up.

I personally contacted by email the Connections Academy of Appleton...our
state's first virtual school...and asked what they have for an arts program?
There are some limited at home art projects for younger elementary
students...but basically as they move on to middle school and then high will come down to art appreciation and art history education. awareness of what artists are doing by pointing and clicking
a mouse, but no requirements for tactile hands-on art making experiences.

Perhaps this will open the doors for artists to teach out of their homes or
collectively put together warehouses of possible art experiences for kids.
One thing we do that in about 3-4 years the majority of baby
boomers in education will be retiring which will mean about 40% of the
existing educating staff of schools gone. We also know that many
universities have limited the number of entrants into their education
programs. Here in Wisconsin, roughly 35 students at most are permitted
entrance into education fields at their campuses each year. Also, speaking
to a former student of many requirements are being added on that
for her to get a teaching degree would require seven years in order to

Basic logic and reason says there will be a vacuum of a lack of qualified
educators in the very near future....and one can only surmize that
technology will step up as a solution. Be it a telethon like set up with
teachers answering phones and one professor teaching a subject...hiring only
a monitor at roughly minimum wage to sit in a room of television monitors
and computers to take roll call and maintain order.

Shall be interesting to say the least to see how this develops....

Larry Seiler