The state Senate is threatening 10 percent cuts to reimbursement rates for online learning, the House 20 percent (TNT, 4-14). Budget cutting is an understandable reality this year, but this provision is odd because the state won’t save any money. If online options aren’t available, kids will just go back to more expensive brick-and-mortar schools.
Online learning already saves districts 25 percent, and providers typically don’t receive any local levy funding. The Federal Way Internet Academy (that I helped launch in 1996) operates with average funding of $4,975 per student, or less than half of the national average, and a quarter less than most online schools around the country.
Cutting their funding back to $4,000 (as the House suggests) may cause them to close shop, eliminate full- and part-time options for students statewide but not save the state a dime. How does that make sense?
Instead of dumb cuts, legislators should encourage the superintendent of public instruction to develop smart plans to boost options and reduce costs. Issue a request for proposals, and buy courses based on quality and cost. Everyone wins.
Smart options beat dumb cuts.
(Vander Ark, a partner in an education public affairs firm, is a former Federal Way school superintendent.)