Indiana Schools Raise Questions About Cost Of Online Classes

New legislation that would require all high school students in Indiana to take some kind of online course during their schooling has left some administrators asking questions over how they're expected to afford any more mandates from the state.

The bill would require all public school students to take a "virtual instruction course" before graduating with a Core 40 diploma beginning with the freshman class of 2013, writes Maureen Hayden at the News and Tribune.

Proponents of the bill believe that the legislation reflects a shift in attitudes toward online learning, and schools in Indiana should keep pace with the technology many others are ready to embrace.

"This is about what's best for our kids," said Republican state Sen. Jim Banks of Columbia City.

The legislation was pushed by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, whose commitment to major education reforms include attention to Indiana students needing to be more tech-savvy to compete in the global economy.

However, critics say that despite the good intentions, the state simply can't afford it.

Frank Bush, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, said that "it's a mandate without full funding."

The legislation, which has already passed in the Senate, would require schools to use their existing funds to pay for the online instruction. Schools would not be allowed to charge pupils for the classes.

The online courses would cost around $800 a student, says the Legislative Services Agency, the nonpartisan research arm of the Indiana General Assembly. However, the LSA estimates the cost of a traditional classroom course is about $923 a student.

Coalition of Growing and Suburban Schools member Denis Ward, superintendent of the Danville Community School Corp., said the legislation would mean that he'd have to lay off some teachers to afford the cost of the courses.

However, Chuck Little, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association which represents 34 school districts around the state, said that the legislation would benefit low-income students wo do not have access to the Internet at home.

02 16, 2012
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