Michigan is close to joining the 21st century by passing a bill to lift the cap on the number of cyber schools authorized in the state. Over 10,000 students and their parents have applied to the two existing cyber schools, yet state law limits the total number of enrollments to 2,000 students – so long as 600 of them are documented dropouts.
Detractors of lifting the caps on cyber schools have resorted to a simple strategy – fear. They cite fears of lack of oversight. They cite fears that these schools are "unproven". They cite fears that kids will not have proper socialization. They ignore the facts in favor of stoking fears.
The facts are that cyber schools have the same oversight as public school academies for which the cap was lifted last year. The facts are that cyber schools beat state averages seventy-seven percent of the time – even with the dropout provision. If the same standards being applied to cyber schools were to be applied to traditional schools, many traditional schools would be closed. In regards to socialization, the facts are that kids do interact with one another on a regular basis through field trips and extracurricular activities.
So, why are detractors stoking these fears? While some may be doing so out of pure motives, the majority are doing so out of a fear of their own – financial. You see, in Michigan, the funding follows the students. If a school does not perform well enough to attract students, they not only lose headcount, they lose funding.
In the interest of educational excellence, removal of caps on the number of charter schools and cyber schools in the state not only provides parents with more options for the education of their children, it also incentivizes all schools to provide excellent education services or risk the loss of per pupil funding from the students that choose to be educated elsewhere. In other words, "all boats rise".
Last year, 238 Michigan high schools did not graduate a single college-ready graduate. Sixty-one percent of our high school graduates require remedial education prior to engaging in higher education studies. We are the 21st most funded state on a per pupil basis, yet we consistently rank in the mid to high 30's with regard to performance. Clearly, our public education system in Michigan needs to do better. Rather than improve their own performance, though, these detractors and their willing accomplices in the House are seeking to block access to a proven means of education that has already been adopted in 24 other states.
The salient question is who should decide where children get to go to school, parents or a government bureaucrat? For me, it is an easy answer – parents. If you agree, please contact your state representative to let your views be known.