Say No to National Schools – Even Virtual Ones
This op-ed in the Chicago Tribune suggests that the United States needs a federal virtual school. The authors, Jeb Bush and James B. Hunt Jr., put it this way:
We think it is time for America’s first national online campus of virtual schools–an Amazon.com of courses and curricula where students, parents, teachers, principals and school administrators could shop for a better education. Virtual courses open to everyone would tear down the chief barrier to student achievement–access to a quality education.
The most striking difference between Amazon and a hypothetical national virtual school is that Amazon came about naturally in the competitive marketplace, while government programs don’t. A national online school would be like any other unwieldy federal bureaucracy, and very unlike Amazon.
A better idea is for individual states to take down the barriers to entry that they’ve set up. Some states, like Missouri, have only one virtual school. Others allow several virtual schools to compete with each other, but hit them with all the restrictions that apply to brick-and-mortar charter schools. Each state should allow its students to participate in a virtual school based in any other state. The money should follow the student.
This would work like the system of public colleges and universities. You can attend a public college in your own state, or in another state, but you don’t have to go through a “national campus.”
While I’m on the topic of virtual schools, it occurs to me that online education might be a way to cut down on the costs of the public service academy everybody’s talking about. Let people learn to be bureaucrats online.