A bill sponsored by state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) to increase the number of cyber schools in Michigan has passes the Senate and House. But not everyone, including Northville superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher, is a fan.
"I am disappointed that the Cyber School legislation, even with modification, has passed the House and Senate, as it does not fully address the concerns about transparency and effectiveness," Gallagher said. "Allowing public dollars to go to for-profit companies without a proven model of effectiveness for cyber education."
Senate Bill 619 now awaits Gov. Rick Synder's signature. Specifically, the bill calls for the state to open the number of cyber schools from its current number, 2, to an eventual 15 by 2014. The cap will be lifted to five cyber charters beginning Fall 2013.
This will increase the number of students enrolled in cyber schools statewide from 2,000 today to an eventual 30,000, or 2 percent of the school population.
"While I applaud the Legislature’s efforts to expand the cap, I will continue my efforts to remove all caps so that we can offer even greater public education choices to all of Michigan’s children," Colbeck told Patch.
He added, “Many teachers are discouraged by the lack of parental involvement in their students’ education. Opening up more public education choices encourages parents to become even more engaged in their children’s educational path. Every time we put a cap in place, it takes away another opportunity for a parent to be more involved."
Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) also supported the bill but said he is happy with it in its current form.
"I went in very much opposed to the oringinal bill," he said. "It is the result of a tremendous amount of debate and compromise...In the end, no one got what they wanted. I like the bill as it currently exists."
Heise said he opposed the bill when it was first introduced because it lifted the cap all together. He said he supports language in the bill that addresses accountability and oversight. Still, he said that cyber education, while it may work for some, is not right for every student.
"It's not perfect," he said. "Cyber education is not for my kids and I would be very cautious about it."
Gov. Snyder has long said he is a proponent of expanding schools of choice, including cyber schools.
"We believe that online learning is a good thing, and providing interested parents and students the ability to enroll in a cyber charter school increases opportunities for a quality education," Snyder said in a statement. "It improves access to learning for those families that feel it is the best for them. In so doing we must and we will maintain proper oversight while continuing to strengthen our outstanding traditional public schools."