The story today is the campaign by little tykes to expand the Virtual Charter Schools. I’m all for political theatre, but this seems a bit odd. Supporters of expanded access brought along current students to read the names — 5,000 — of those who wanted to get in.
The staging is bit unusual. Were a teacher at a general school to bring a bunch of middle school students to lobby for expanded teacher pay the howls of outrage would mount up, at least if the Mackinac Center’s howl a few years ago is any indication. So far on this? Virtual crickets.
What’s going on? Unintentionally or not, the image (and the protest) reveal more about our Virtual Charter. First the mobilization of the students to expand the school program is ethically questionable, particularly in the context of for-profit management systems. the students may think they are doing civic duty or politics, but they are actually in the business of sales. The questions about profit motive of the management of these schools, let alone the oversight of their curriculum — these all gain added currency because of this stunt.
But the second issue is perhaps the more interesting. Look at the picture: the image of students, younger sibs and moms in the background at the very least speak in the visual language of home school, if not the substance. This aspect of the program has been played down in Michigan discussions on the west side. When the measure went through the State Senate, MLive led with this human interest story:
LANSING – Critics of “cyber” charter schools said Wednesday there’s not enough information to determine whether the schools are successful, but Steve Slisko pointed to his grandson.
The boy has cognitive impairments that prohibit him from speaking, but he can work a keyboard – and attend the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, one of two virtual charter schools in the state.
Yet the home school subtext tends to be right there, as the MVCA site states,
Michigan Virtual Charter Academy is redefining traditional home schooling, but not within the home school network.
A Fox-17 report this past November further bears this out.
Michigan joins a number of other states with similar programs and impacts, including Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
However, one would be mistaken to think that such State support is necessarily a welcome move on the part of home schoolers. After all, the heart of the home school approach is a philosophic commitment about the appropriate locale for the education of one’s children. From within the movement, this development threatens to undo three decades of legal wrangling for recognition.
(The Home School Legal Defense Association) believes that a distinction between virtual charter schools and homeschooling is vital. While charter schools provide parents with another choice, we emphasize that they are still public schools in every sense of the word.
HSLDA also strongly cautions homeschoolers against enrolling in virtual charter schools. Many homeschoolers are seduced by attractive marketing and forget that virtual charter schools are actually controlled by the public school system. HSLDA does not represent students enrolled in full-time charter school programs.
HSLDA is also concerned that virtual charter schools will negatively impact the public and American lawmakers’ understanding of what it means to homeschool.
Agree or not, home schoolers have pushed their cause, and in their own way expanded both public speech and options in our education. The irony now, is that Republicans will subvert the home school movement with the virtual charter, much the same way that a decade ago the physical charter gutted the parochial schools. While the left believes that such charters will weaken the efforts of general schools, the likelihood is that the expanded virtual charter will instead weaken the home school movement generally, all for one obvious reason. It’s free.
Filed under: Education Policy, Michigan, Politics, Charter Schools, home schools, HSLDA, Mackinac Center, Republicans, Virtual Charter