E-school Parents Lobby Lawmakers

Feb 28, 2013

Many Ohio children study online through state funded e-schools.

Their parents are talking with lawmakers as they consider Governor John Kasich's education plan. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Cleveland resident Cynthia Williams believes in e schools.  She says her older daughter, who is now in college, wasn‘t being challenged enough in a traditional public school so online school provided her with more opportunities to learn.  NOW Williams has a 10 year old daughter with a chronic health condition that makes it hard for her to function in a traditional classroom so she is going to the same e-school her older sister attended….Ohio Virtual Academy.  Williams says the online school has provided both of her children with opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

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So on this day, Williams is one of the e-school parents sharing concerns about future funding with Ohio lawmakers.  Williams visits the office of Democratic State Representative John Rogers and speaks with his aide, Alex Boehnke ( pronounced Burnka) about her concerns. ….the same thoughts she shared with me before the meeting.  Williams says she wants to make sure the new school funding formula being considered for the state doesn’t take dollars away from online schools.

Williams- My worry is with this new budget formula, some of the added on monies may not come to the schools because there could be money added for building funds which I don’t know if eschools will get.

Ingles – Do e-schools have a building though?

Williams – Well no, not really where children are actually put inside four walls for 8 hours or 5 hours a day.  We do have administrative offices where our student records and administrators work from but the children work , for the most part, anywhere there is an internet connection.  That might be at their home, travelling, at the park.

Ingles – Why would money for buildings go to e-schools?  What makes you think they should get it if they don’t have buildings?

Williams – Well, I understand what you are saying but my concern is not that we need it for the building but you’ve got to understand that each of these students is shipped supplies and a computer so there are logistic costs that go into effect that maybe are not being considered or looked at.

Williams says the infrastructure of e-schools needs to be considered just as the state considers the infrastructure of traditional schools.  Her state representative, Democrat John Rogers, says he’s talked to his aide about the meeting and understands Williams’ concerns.  And Rogers says he’s not convinced this funding model provides enough funding for schools period, regardless of the type of school.

Roger – You know my biggest concern is trying to at least maintain the level of funding from our state to support public schools and that would include continuing the funding of the electronic schools for those kids that have those needs.

Rogers says he’s not a stranger to electronic schools.  He is studying online to obtain a law degree.  And he points out a lot of students who attend public schools in his district are taking college courses online too.  He says the electronic schools serve an important function.  Rogers doesn’t see the debate over funding as a choice between providing money for traditional public schools or e-schools because he says they work hand in hand in many cases.

Rogers – The funding for the electronic schools come from the district they are the resident of…and so it’s important if we are going to maintain their ability that we have to maintain the overall district’s ability to provide a great education.

About 40 thousand Ohio students primarily attend e-schools.  That’s still a pretty small number when you consider there are more than one point eight million students attending elementary, middle and high schools in Ohio right now.  But e-schools are becoming more popular as the number of students in online schools has continued to grow in recent years.