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League of Women Voters against K12 online charter schools

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

As 18 school districts in the Fox River Valley are poised either to accept or reject a proposal for an online virtual charter school, the League of Women Voters of Illinois will urge them to reject the application.

Geneva resident Jean Pierce, a league member, retired professor and chair of the Faculty of Educational Psychology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, helped draft the league’s position letter.

“Perhaps a virtual school will work for very motivated students,” Pierce said. “The only way is, if they are being homeschooled. Then we’re taking public school money and using it to finance homeschooling. The other thing is that it’s a privatization. K12 exists for the primary purpose of making money for its [stockholders]. So the league does not support privatization of public schooling.”

Pierce also said a virtual school for young children “is totally beyond the pale” because elementary-aged students are not mature enough to self-regulate online learning and require parental supervision.

“It’s a transfer of public money to private coffers – that’s what they’re trying to do to all of these school districts – it’s really a crime what they’re trying to pull off,” Pierce said.

According to the league’s position letter, issued March 18, it also opposes a for-profit virtual charter school – which is what K12 Inc. is – as the company that would be providing the online content for a nonprofit called Virtual Learning Solutions.

“Public education in Illinois is already severely underfunded,” the position letter states. “Companies operating virtual charters exist to make a profit. … There could be a conflict between the interests of shareholders in the corporation and the citizens of the state.”

Mike Skarr, vice president of the Virtual Learning Solutions board of directors, did not respond to a request to review the league’s position letter and respond to it.

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