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Legal challenge possible on cut to alternative education

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 22, 2011 at 9:15 am with 7 Comments »
April 22, 2011 11:07 am

A lawsuit is brewing over the Legislature’s proposed cuts to online learning and other non-school-based education, which supporters say is part of students’ right to basic eduction under the state constitution and can’t legally be reduced.

But lawmakers may be backing away from those cuts.

School districts can claim basic-education funding for so-called Alternative Learning Experiences that mainly happen away from their campuses. House budget writers have proposed cutting that ALE money by 20 percent, saying the programs need less money per student than do traditional brick-and-mortar schools with secretaries and custodians. The Senate countered with a 10 percent cut.

Former Rep. Gigi Talcott of the group Washington Families for Online Learning warned in a news release that cutting the basic education of more than 50,000 students in ALE programs is “unprecedented and sets the state up for another legal challenge.” She was in Olympia this week showing lawmakers an analysis by the attorney she has retained, Steve O’Ban, saying lawmakers risked a constitutional challenge.

O’Ban said a lawsuit is “on the table” if the funding cut goes through.

Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, who helped craft the House’s education cuts, sees the alternative programs as distinct from constitutionally protected basic education, but she doesn’t like the proposed cut anyway. She said other lawmakers are coming around after hearing more information about the diversity of ALE programs since the cut was proposed.

Haigh and advocates said the cost of the programs will be cut by 10 percent without any cuts to per-student funding if the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction approves a rule change next week as expected.

Among other changes, Haigh said the new rule would eliminate stipends for parents of home-schooled children who use programs.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. This is very encouraging news, and I applaud the efforts of Gigi Talcott in representing the thousands of children who would be adversely affected by these cuts. When it comes to our children’s education, our state’s leadership needs to be using a scalpel, not an axe, when trimming the budget. Too many families rely on this type of education — education that uses cutting edge technology and highly qualified teachers — to help their children succeed. (Children who would find it hard, if not impossible, to thrive in the regular brick-n-mortar classroom.)

  2. Austin Sloan says:

    Great article regarding the ALE funding issue. As a teacher who has taught in traditional school and now online, I see the value that online schools afford families. There are many reasons why a student would choose learning in an online environment: harassment in a traditional setting, high profile parents, students with careers, a last chance to get credit, etc. Online schools are growing at an incredible rate and we should be encouraging their growth instead of stifling it. Instead of building new schools we can be investing in online learning. Washington needs to be at the forefront of online learning. We have incredible companies like Giant Campus who are developing top rate curriculum used in online schools across the country. We can be leaders in this developing field making the Pacific Northwest the online learning capital of the world but we need to invest in online schools and use them as test pilots to see what effective methodologies can be used to increase learning retention in our students. We can create a new incredible technology industry based in the northwest if we choose or we can be followers. We are known leaders in the world so this is a chance to show the world who we are and what we can accomplish in learning.

  3. As an adult returning to college I took some online courses. To be blunt, they have absolutely no place in K-12. I would even discourage anyone in their late teens/early 20’s from relying on.

    The fact that it’s cheaper or more convenient than traditional education doesn’t make it better. In fact very little actual learning is going on other than the ability to game the system.

  4. The comment left by Mr. Young shows the ignorance that permeates our educational culture and settings. Because we are charged with preparing our students for their future, one that will be directed by technology and innovation, we have an obligation to be on the cutting edge of change rather than trailing behind. Having taught in both the traditional classroom and online I can say, with a certain amount of authority, that the benefits of individualization and mastery based educational programs have the potential of revolutionizing the educational programs in this nation, both inside and outside the traditional classrooms. I have seen students that had given up take new interest in their coursework. I have heard parents tell me that they can’t believe the change they have seen in their children. I have witnessed students that had been falling through the cracks for years take new interest in their progress and regenerate a self esteem that had long since been lost in the traditional school setting.

    I thank Mr. Young for illustrating the problem that we have with the perceptions about on-line learning. Imagine if the first person to use a computer got an error message and decided, for all of us, that computers were a worthless endeavor.

  5. The online option has been the saving grace for so many students and families. Brick & mortar simply doesn’t work for them. I don’t know how many times a family has told me that they were at the point of hopelessness until they enrolled in an online school. Of course these students need adult supervision and a supporting teacher. Perhaps that’s what Mr. Young needs if he sees it as gaming the system.

  6. After struggling for years in traditional schools, our daughter came home for online learning when she was a 7th grader. After two years of personalized instruction and the needed one-on-one working relationship, she was able to go on to the local high school. Her skills exceeded most of her peers as an entering freshmen & the skills she learned in those two years were critical to her current success, now 11th grade.

    Just as the traditional classroom is not for everyone, online learning suits some students/families better than others. I am grateful for the option because it added tremendous value to my daughter’s education and I thank those who are working hard to keep this option open for WA residents.

  7. I attended public schools until halfway through my junior year. I hated going to school every day because I didnt feel like I was going to school and actually learning. I went and was surrounded by people who were mean, pressuring me into making the wrong decisions, and many untrue rumors. I didn’t feel like the teachers or anyone else at the school cared about me and my success in school.
    I had given up on school until finally my mother transferred me to an alternative school that was alot smaller and with a very different schedule. When I first got there I didnt try to turn my grades around and make up my credits because I didn’t care and I felt like no one else did either.
    The teachers at the school would have me stay after class to talk to me and they installed confidence in me, something I didn’t have back then. They also showed me that they actually cared about my success and about me as a person. Also they were willing to help me catch up on work that I needed to get done to graduate.
    I worked my butt off for many months to get my diploma at my graduation and it felt amazing when I finally did. I look back and see think that if I hadn’t of switched to that school and never had the support of the teachers and staff there, I wouldn’t have graduated. So I thank my teachers for that.
    This budget cut would cause that school along with many other alternative schools in Washington to close. They already have small budgets as it is now so cutting the budget even more would mean that they wouldn’t have enough money to stay open and to teach more students.
    What are all the students that are currently attending those schools supposed to do? I know that if this had happened back when I was attending an alternative school, I would have dropped out and possibly gotten my GED. Because there was no way that I would go back to the public school I was attending before that.

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