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KS virtual schools growing fast, legislature poised to step in

A special audit team is monitoring the virtual schools, trying to come up with a plan to evaluate whether students are really taking the classes and how they perform against traditional schools.
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Three years ago, the Lawrence Virtual School in Kansas had 165 students. Next year, enrollment is expected to climb to over 1,000, making the district the biggest in the county, reports the Lawrence Journal World.

"There's no doubt in my mind it will be the biggest school in the district in three years, bigger than both high schools," said Randy Weseman, Lawrence's superintendent of schools.

Virtual school programs in Kansas are growing by leaps and bounds. There are 18 virtual schools in Kansas, and that number has the state legislature wondering how to regulate them.

A special audit team has been assigned to study the state's virtual school programs to determine what kind of controls must be in place to determine who is really a student, in order for the state to pay the school, said Barbara Hinton, legislative post auditor.

"This is a performance audit, which gets into a lot of details and will compare how the virtual schools are performing compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts," Hinton said.

"For example," Hinton said, "are there policies, (regulations) and statutes in place that would address the issue of, 'Is that really a student at the other end of that computer as opposed to the parent?'"

The concept of virtual school is still quite new and many officials used to a traditional brick and mortar school have a lot of questions. Public schools compete for money depending on enrollment. It is understandable that attendance at virtual school would be scrutinized.

"I think people have a lot of questions," he said. "It's a huge jump moving from a bricks-and-mortar school to a school that exists only on the Internet. … It isn't what some people think it is — you're not just turning your kids loose on a computer," said Weseman.
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