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4. Online Classes
Teachers unions have historically resisted the development of online courses as an alternative to traditional classroom education. As Reason’s Katherine-Mangu Ward wrote in 2010:
The National Education Association, the country’s main teachers union, takes a hard line on virtual charters such as K12. "There also should be an absolute prohibition against the granting of charters for the purpose of home-schooling, including online charter schools that seek to provide home-schooling over the Internet," says the organization’s official policy statement on charter schools. "Charter schools whose students are in fact home schoolers, and who may rarely if ever convene in an actual school building, disregard the important socialization aspect of public education, do not serve the public purpose of promoting a sense of community, and lend themselves too easily to the misuse of public funds and the abuse of public trust.”
Though the unions are still typically resistant to the development of charter schools, be they real or virtual, public school districts are slowly getting on board with online education, at least as a supplement if not a replacement.
Utah has enacted a law allowing school districts, both public and charter, to offer online classes to high school students. The school would still get some of the state aid, so there is less fear of educational flexibility resulting in funding drops. Even so, as Paul E. Peterson of Education Next notes, meddlers are attempting to game the system in favor of protecting public schools, reducing the funding for online classes, and restricting students from using the system to actually get ahead in their studies.
Many states are actually mandating students incorporate online education into their course load, though the details vary and efforts to require students take classes for credit often get scaled back. A mandate in Idaho to require students to take two semester-long online classes in order to graduate was defeated at the polls in November. But perhaps its defeat is more of a reflection of the way public schools try to manage its students—one-size-fits-all solutions dictated by authority (not to mention some likely rent-seeking from connected private providers)—rather than embracing the flexibility online and charter programs are trying to provide and that parents and students are hungering for.