“Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine,” Sept. 2, mischaracterizes the relationship of those championing digital learning as for-profit and essentially conspiratorial.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education works with Democratic and Republican policymakers to advance reforms by sharing best practices and providing technical assistance if needed. The Foundation — whose budget is 90 percent composed of family foundation and philanthropic contributions — advocates for policies that benefit students, not the interests of nonprofit or private entities.

Digital Learning Now! is a bipartisan initiative to help states remove barriers to new models of learning, establish accountability through quality control mechanisms for providers, and expand options for students.

Additionally, the article is misguided in its critique of virtual schools. A child’s education should not be subject to his or her zip code, especially at a time when information can be sent across the globe in a matter of seconds.

If a student in rural Maine wants to learn Mandarin Chinese, who are we to say “no” because the district can’t find a qualified teacher? Why make a teacher spend hours grading exams or send paper standardized tests across the state when they can be moved online to provide real-time access to student-performance data?

The idea of an education system that harnesses today’s technology and reflects the world we live in is not a partisan issue. The Obama administration’s newest Race to the Top competition cites personalized learning as its “absolute priority.” The most effective way for districts to personalize learning is by marshaling the collective strengths of nonprofit and private-sector technology partners.

The motive is to seek the benefits these new models offer teachers, students and parents. Gov. Paul LePage, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen and Maine lawmakers should be commended for their desire to bring education into the 21st century; it is long overdue.

Eric Smith is a former Florida education commissioner and an emeritus member of Chiefs for Change.