BRUNSWICK — The virtual school system supported by the governor’s office will be a disaster for the state of Maine, our children, our families, our towns, and education in general. Last week’s failure to override the governor’s veto of a moratorium on virtual schools is horrible. The only one to come out on top will be the hugely profitable private companies that the state of Maine will pay, with our property tax dollars, to provide this computerized educational system to our kids.

Let’s look at what virtual education means. Corporate bureaucrats with no knowledge of the needs of our communities, who have never met our kids or our families, and who likely do not even live in the U.S., will decide what, and when, and how much our kids will learn. Our kids will be interacting with computers, and they will be graded on how well they interact with a computer program. The virtual school eventually will penetrate our homes where our kids will learn their lessons with no interaction among themselves or with the dedicated teachers who now can work with the individual student. Gone will be the opportunity to question and to learn from a dedicated teacher, to listen to the comments of classmates, and to build on ideas of others. The kind of creativity that has distinguished American public school children from children in Asia and Europe will be stifled, as our kids are told to conform to their computer programs.

Largely unspoken but often taken for granted is the role that the public schools play in teaching our children what it means to be a citizen, and the responsibilities of citizenship. This socialization of our kids is a large factor in the success of our democracy. This will disappear.

Community control over our education has always been central to community support for our schools. This will disappear.

The conferences between parents and teachers, that help each to understand the other and the needs of the child, will be more difficult and less effective.

The sense of community that our public schools help to create among all of us will fade. The virtual school system envisions a future where all learning will take place in each child’s individual home or pod, and our school buildings will fall into disrepair.

However, not everyone loses. The huge global corporation that has sold its program to the state of Maine will prosper. Money that we as taxpayers would pay for our educators, our buildings, and sports facilities will now be sucked out of Maine into the profits of the corporate predators. With their huge profits, they will embark on publicity campaigns to persuade us that virtual schools are better for all of us. Our communities will be overwhelmed by the resources available to these corporations. And the irony is that they will be undermining us with our own income and property tax dollars.

They will try to tell us that their system will cost less than our present system of public education. This is terribly short-sighted, and is the result of the corporate goal of making a profit without regard to the public good. The fruits of our public education system are priceless.

Public education has made America an example to the world of how opportunity for all can help our kids reach their potential and make our country a better place for all of us. You cannot weigh the immediate costs of education against the long-term benefits of a well educated population, and that is why America has always willingly paid for universal education.

I note that the most prestigious private schools, whose students often come from wealthy families, have not embraced virtual schooling as a substitute for good teachers in real classrooms. It is clear that the profit-making virtual schools have not targeted these private schools because there is no opportunity to drain away tax dollars.

Our public schools have always provided a pathway to upward mobility, and have competed well against the private schools.

If the cancer of profit-making virtual schools spreads through the public school system, it will certainly lead to permanent classes in our society, with a poorer class of people whose hope for their future has been frustrated, and a wealthier class who enjoy the fruits of opportunities that were previously available to all.

— Special to the Press Herald