LePage Vetoes Maine Virtual School Bill

Maine Governor Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would affect virtual charter schools in the state. While he supports the idea of a state run virtual school, he does not agree with the moratorium of one year that it would put on the licensing of newly opening, private virtual charter schools in Maine, writes Steve Mistler in The Portland Press Herald. LePage feels it would hurt those students that needed a virtual charter school for physical or emotional reasons.

The governor said the measure is a clear attempt to stop the opening of to the Maine Connections Academy, a virtual charter school that was permitted a licence by the Maine Charter School Commission, which he wrote in his official veto letter, Alanna Durkin of Associated Press reports. The school that is set to open its virtual doors in the autumn can only teach up to seven hundred and fifity students, claims Governor LePage. Were the bill with the one year moratorium to pass, the virtual school would not be able to open for another year.

‘It merely denies hundreds of children who need … access to their best educational opportunity,’ he wrote.”

Supporters of the bill, like Democratic Representative Brian Hubbell, say that the governor’s veto is taking away limited tax payer resources and giving it to a small number of students. He feels that it is the state’s responsibility to taxpayers to spend their resources as efficiently as possible and that a virtual public education system had not yet been tried in Maine.

Those who support the bill also say that a state-run virtual school would have all the benefits of a virtual school without the problems associated with a private virtual school. including being owned by a company, which has shareholders that it has to keep happy.

Proponents of the bill argue that pupils learn mostly from home in online classes. This helps students who are often teased or bullied, or athletes who are training hard with a certain training schedule. Supporters of the bill also state that the moratorium is needed to encourage the Department of Education to create a state-run virtual charter school that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Maine students instead of just a few hundred.

Opponents of the measure point to the bad track record of virtual schools not serving students well. According to Eric Russell of the Press Herald, one of these opponents is Democratic United States Representative Mike Michaud, who insists that virtual schools are “not the right answer.” Michaed’s spokeswoman, Lizzy Reinholt, states:

“Studies by organizations such as the National Education Policy Center have found that students in virtual charter schools failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress at rates that are worse than traditional public schools,” she said. “In addition, students in the virtual charter schools fell between 2 and 11 percent behind the state average in reading and between 14 and 36 percent behind the average in math.”

While the governor does support expanded access to “blending learning,” in which students take both virtual and brick and mortar classes, putting a moratorium upon online charter schools does not do much to support “blended learning,” he thinks.