by David Safier
In the course of writing for this blog, I've struck up an email conversation with David Reed, a guy who knows more about education budget numbers, and far more about virtual schools (online education), than I do. He's a recent PhD in education, so his research is fresh and current.
He sent me information about the education portion of the 2010 budget that just made its way out of House Appropriations. According to Reed, charters are taking less of a hit than traditional public schools.
He's careful to say, "based on my calculations," which I appreciate, since, when it comes to budgets, it's often tough to compare figures directly. But if he's right and charters are taking a third of the hit per student that traditional schools are taking, I'd love to hear the Republican rationale. They keep saying they're doing no more than mussing schools' hair a bit with the budget cuts. If so, they should mess with the charters in equal measure.
The other part of the budget he pointed out that calls for less interpretation, and actually surprises me, is that the online schools will get 80% as much per student as other schools. That's new, so far as I know, and that's a serious cut. Are legislators acknowledging that it costs less to educate a student sitting at home behind a computer than one sitting inside an actual school? I'm sure that's a fact, but it's a surprising admission to be coming out of our legislature.
All kinds of other new rules are created in the bill for online schools — about sharing students with other schools and testing and things like that — but I can't sort out their significance, even with Reed's help, so I'll pass on those changes until I can make more sense of them.