IN teachers union fights online schools

Union claims legislature never intended online program to service 'regular students' and get paid full funding.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The issue of state funding of charter schools came to a head this week as Indiana's largest teachers union is making plans to fight the approval of two new online charter schools, reports the Indianapolis Star.

After the approval by Ball State University of two online schools and three more in the works, teachers union leaders are saying that the 2001 charter school law didn't intend for schools that collect full state money to provide most of students' education online.

"There's no provision to allow just your regular student to stay home 99 percent of the time and have the state pay full dollars for that," said Dan Clark, deputy director of the Indiana State Teachers Association. "We're not objecting to home-schoolers in any way, shape or form. But we're saying the legislature ought to specifically authorize this if they want it to be done."

Administrators say the the time is right for funding online charter schools, and that they are a natural fit for an Internet-driven society that demands more control of its children's education. Indiana's head count of registered home-schooled students more than quadrupled in a decade to 23,455.

Ball State University, a national leader in online education, is free from regulations that bind traditional public schools.

Students who are enrolled in the program get computers and Internet connections up front, at no charge to their families. Textbooks, workbooks and other materials will be shipped to their homes.

"It's our feeling that this is kind of a cutting-edge education ... and it certainly is a legitimate form of education," said Larry Gabbert, who heads Ball State's charter school office. "Between computers, cell phones and that so many more things are electronically based, we felt it was time to get on board with this growing trend."
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