Why Are “Virtual Schools” Getting the Same Amount of Money as Other Schools?
A good question from Bruce Murphy of Milwaukee Magazine: why do “virtual schools” get the same amount of money per pupil that other “choice” schools get from the State? “Virtual schools” have no building to pay rent or a mortgage on and none of the normal expenses you’d expect from a more traditional school. In addition, since they have more students “per class” than traditional schools, they should need less staff – the largest single expense for any school – right?
Yet, they get $6,000 per student that’s enrolled. The average choice school gets $6,600. Why does it cost so much to educate students in a “virtual” environment, and where’s the extra money going?
We taxpayers pay nearly $6,000 per pupil for the 3,635 elementary and secondary students who attend virtual schools in Wisconsin. This is one of just 18 states that pay for students who take all of their courses online. That seems odd from several perspectives.
To begin with, why is it so expensive? The major cost at any school is personnel. But as a January 2009 story in Milwaukee Magazine reported, just 37 percent of tax money going to virtual schools is for teacher compensation, and that figure comes not from some outside analysis but from the coalition representing the virtual schools. The coalition claims its schools have a 50 to 1 student/teacher ratio, compared to 20 to 1 for a traditional school.
I question the priorities here. The state’s per-pupil payment is just over $6,600 per student for choice students in Milwaukee. These are mostly small schools, probably with smaller-sized classrooms. They are personnel heavy. I’ve questioned before why we spend so little on choice schools compared traditional public schools ($11,981 per pupil statewide), but the choice payment seems all the more absurd when compared to what we’re spending for online schools. – Bruce Murphy
I think the idea of “virtual schools” is interesting and should be explored and utilized by those who want to go that route. But in this case – and with any “choice” school – my main problem is the lack of accountability.
The answer of course is easy. There is little if any accountability with these “virtual schools”.
And that’s just the way they want it.