I: The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. The number one danger of the LePage/Bowen/Bush/Koch Brothers plan to privatize and profitize our schools is that the threat this plan represents will not be recognized soon enough by the people of Maine.
Pieces of the plan have arrived already, under the guise of school choice, the charter school bill, and LePage’s digital learning initiative. Separately, these pieces look innocuous enough, but when pieced together, as Colin Woodard shows in his recent report, “The Profit Motive Behind Virtual Schools in Maine,” these initiatives can be recognized for what they are — back doors through which corporations can tap into public funds. Back doors that will make it more difficult for already-challenged brick-and-mortar public schools to remain open. Back doors that will allow in changes that will tear at the fabric of rural communities in Maine.
Paul LePage and Stephen Bowen are ready to sign on with Jeb Bush, the Koch Brothers, and the Foundation for Excellence. Are we?
Considering the profound changes that virtual schools may bring not only to the lives of our children but to our society as a whole, we can be thankful that the charter schools panel defied LePage by refusing to be rushed into a decision on proposals from Maine Virtual Academy and Maine Connections Academy, which together would have removed 4,000 students (and the corresponding state and local funding) from Maine schools and enrolled them in virtual schools, with the tuition money going to out-of-state corporations.
It is only a matter of time, however, before the applications of these two virtual charter schools are re-submitted. Hopefully, by the time that occurs, the people of Maine and the members of the charter committee will be ready to give them a resounding “no.”
Over the next four days, this blog will outline other concerns with virtual schools, including likely impacts on Maine students and Maine communities.
In the meantime, the Woodard article (also linked above) is a must-read for anyone wanting to know more about the issue.