A last-ditch effort by Sen. Frank Niceley to keep the Tennessee Virtual Academy open has failed, as Niceley was unable to convince the Senate to offer the school a twelve-month reprieve. The Senate voted 17-13 against the proposed amendment.
The Tennesse Virtual Academy is run by a for-profit company under contract with the Union County school system, and students from all over the state are enrolled at the Academy. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says the school does deserve another chance. He told the Post:
“I firmly believe that that school needs to be given another chance. Now, one more year is all I’d give them. If they didn’t have the achievement then, I’d cut their legs out from under them, so to speak.”
The Academy is among the schools with the poorest performance with a level 1 score on a five-point scale. When proposing his amendment, Niceley said the school allows medically fragile and bullied kids to educate themselves in a way that a public schools cannot. Dolores Gresham, chair of the Education Committee, has a different point of view:
“Fairness, compassion and common sense will tell you that these students have not been served well. To let it go on for another year is outrageous,” The Daily Journal reports.
Gresham says the state has already spent $43 million on the floundering online school, which is ranked 35th worst in the state.
Those in favor of keeping the school open say when public school perform poorly they do not face closure, yet with the Virtual Academy such consequences loomed large. According to Andrea Zelinksi of the Post, proponents wanted the school to have one more year to increase its students test scores.
Niceley argued that the Academy is experiencing big gains in comparison with other schools in the state. He also mentioned how 125 failing brick-and-mortar school are not threatened by closure despite their plight. As the Post says, the state report card indicates that:
“… fewer than one in four students are on grade level in math, and 42 percent are at or above grade level in reading language arts. Growth in student test scores ranked one out of five, the lowest score possible.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey intends to work with the administration to try and keep the online school open for one more year. In case the school closes, the students will be assisted in getting enrolled in other online public schools, Sen. Richard Briggs said.