January 29, 2013

Maine Democrats take aim at virtual charter schools

The push represents a significant challenge to the taxpayer-financed institutions, which Gov. LePage has championed vehemently.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

In Tennessee last week, lawmakers grilled the head of the K12-operated Tennessee Virtual Academy after the school posted substandard test scores.

The company is also under investigation in Florida over allegations that it covered up the use of uncertified teachers at a school it operates, Florida Virtual Academy.

Investor lawsuits were filed at a federal court in Virginia last year alleging deceptive enrollment, attendance and recruitment bookkeeping to increase its taxpayer-supported revenues, which are based on the number of students enrolled.

"Virtual schools and their efficacy are in dispute now, so why are we diving into this?" said the sponsor of another moratorium on the schools, Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle. "We don't have enough money in our education system in Maine to fund what we'd like to do, so why are we going to funnel all this money out of state?"

Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, has requested a bill that would ban virtual charters, while Rep. Victoria Kornfeld, D-Bangor, has requested one that, like Alfond's and Devin's, would impose a moratorium.

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the former House Democratic leader, has submitted a bill request that would direct the state to study the possibility of running its own virtual school, much as New Hampshire does.

"We have the networks, we have the connections with teachers and school leaders, why wouldn't it make sense?" Cain said. "Rather than farm out the responsibility for virtual education to a private company, I think it makes sense for the state of Maine to look into whether this really is the best way."

A spokesperson for Education Commissioner Steve Bowen, who strongly supports virtual charters, did not respond to a request for comment.

All of the requested bills are being drawn up by the Legislature's revisers, who may recommend some be folded together. Full texts of the bills are expected next week.


Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:



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