The spread of virtual k-12 education has triggered an increased debate on the compatibility of online education with classical school-based educational demands and systems. As a Virginia-based company, K12, has grown to be the largest provider in the country of online educational options for elementary, middle, and high school students, local school boards are expressing concerns about the functionality of online options.
The Washington Post reports the company's push to offer a statewide public education option in Massachusetts sparked a legal debate not about the pedagogy or merit of the education offered but about how a virtual school option, one which would not be tied to the physical location of students, could function in a public school system entrenched in local, property-tax based, funding mechanisms. Likewise, school experts and officials in Michigan worry school districts may not get adequate funding for online students because of outdated regulation which based per pupil funding on "seat time", that is, the amount of time the student actually shows up to their bricks and mortar classroom.
As it stands, new legislation in Massachusetts allowed K12 to open the Massachusetts Virtual Academy, which serves up to 500 students per year. Advocates of such schooling options point out traditional local school models do not work for all students, such as home-school children, those with unique physical or mental needs, and those who have become alienated from the school environment because of bullying or unchallenging curriculum. As critics and proponents continue to ponder how virtual options work in traditional school districts and how well these schools ultimately perform, it is clear the online education debate will persist.