Fitzhugh Offers Critique of Virtual Schools Bill

In a post on his blog at the Dyersburg State Gazette, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh gives his reasons for opposing the new “virtual schools bill” enacted earlier this year under Republican sponsorship.
First, I opposed this bill because public education is not intended to be a for-profit business. Tennessee’s constitution requires us to provide free public education to every student in the state. Under HB 1030, school boards can now charge tuition to students for virtual schools. Additionally, millions of your tax-payer dollars will go to private companies and the state will still be forced to provide computer and internet access to students enrolled in these for- profit virtual schools. This goes against the spirit of public education and is fiscally irresponsible.
Second, I opposed this bill because it is a prime example of special interest groups infiltrating the legislative process. K-12 Inc is a multi-million dollar virtual schools company founded by a convicted felon. During the last legislative session, K-12 Inc hired 3 lobbyists to push through the virtual schools bill. Don’t be fooled, K-12 Inc didn’t do this because they care about education; they did it because they stand to make millions by starting for-profit, tuition charging schools with your tax-payer dollars.
Finally, I opposed this bill because it is a step too far. While I support virtual education programs for homebound students or for students wanting to take more advanced classes not offered in their school, I am opposed to this legislation because it promotes for-profit virtual schools as an alternative to traditional, in-classroom learning. It is irresponsible to do this because, as the National Education Policy Center points out, we have no data to show us how these for-profit virtual schools will perform against traditional public schools. Until we have this data, it is premature to use tax-payer money to open hundreds of for-profit virtual schools.

Leave a Reply