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From the Daily: A virtual problem

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published October 26, 2011

While cyber schools were once an idea of science fiction, online learning has recently become more widely accepted. Cyber schools — which allow students to take classes on the Internet — are a beneficial alternative for students who don't learn at the same speed as their peers. Though cyber schools are a new resource that should be explored public schools are struggling and should be the government's first priority. The money in the government’s educational budget should first fund public schools rather than develop cyber schools.

State Senate Bill 619 lifts enrollment restrictions on cyber schools in Michigan The bill will allot the same amount of per-student funding as public schools and help develop cyber schools substantially. However, cyber schools do not perform as well academically. K-12 Inc. is the largest online education group and partners with many public schools. The group had only 25 percent of its 24 schools meet the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement — which determines academic success based on standardized tests under the No Child Left Behind standard — according to the National Education Policy Center’s 2009-2010 annual report.

Innovation in the education system is crucial to increase the effectiveness of all Michigan schools. However, more research needs to be conducted before placing students in front of a screen every day. Pennsylvania and Ohio have thousands of students enrolled in online schools, but their success is limited.

Though there are obvious problems in the current public school system, these can be remedied through additional education funding. Overfilled classrooms and program cuts are hurting schools throughout the state, and government officials need to address these immediate problems before investing money in cyber schools. Integrating online learning into traditional classrooms is a better use for the money than giving it directly to cyber schools. This could encourage true innovation and help a larger number of students than the few that benefit from cyber schools.

If there is money immediately available, it should first go toward the state's public school system. However, cyber schools should not be completely ignored. In the future, they may become a viable alternative to traditional schooling. For certain students, online courses can be more effective than traditional classrooms.

The current education system has many issues that are worsened by the elimination of programs and increased class sizes. It is important for the nation to explore innovative schooling options, but not at the expense of traditional public schools. If there is available educational funding, it should primarily be distributed to the public schools that educate the majority of Michigan’s students.