Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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Since the publication of the Maine Sunday Telegram investigation on digital learning, key Democratic lawmakers have expressed skepticism about allowing the establishment of full-time virtual charter schools in Maine. Republican lawmakers either said they had not read the article or did not respond to interview requests.
"Whatever Maine does we should do so carefully," said Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, who sponsored a digital education bill this year and serves on the Legislature's education committee. "We should be taking a deep breath, looking at our options, and making sure that we continue to enhance our students' ability to take online classes without removing the classroom and the experiences of being in school and the things you learn being on the playground."
House Democratic leader Emily Cain of Orono, an opponent of both virtual and brick-and-mortar charter schools, said she was concerned about the track record of virtual schools in other states.
"We shouldn't be promoting a failed educational model in Maine," Cain said. "This isn't about being against alternate delivery mechanisms of education, but about focusing on best practices and learning outcomes for kids. When you look at it that way, you can't say that virtual schools are a good idea for Maine."
House Speaker Bob Nutting, R-Oakland, said through a spokesperson that he didn't wish to comment. Senate President Kevin Raye and several Republican members of the education committee did not respond to interview requests.
Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, said last week that he hadn't had an opportunity to read the Sunday Telegram story, but that he supports virtual charter schools being included as part of Maine's educational mix. He couldn't be reached Tuesday.
"My philosophy on education has always been that every child learns different and there's a different situation in every home across America," Mason said. "Are virtual schools perfect? Probably not, but we've come a long way since the one-room schoolhouse in town. This is part of the future and we need to embrace it."
Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at: email@example.com