The state law authorizing operation of virtual schools is scheduled to expire June 30 of this year and House Education Committee Chairman Harry Brooks, who sponsored the original bill in 2011, has filed a bill to extend their operating authority until 2019.
Most of the virtual schools controversy since 2011 has centered on K12 Inc. and its school, based in Union County but accepting enrolment from students in all 95 Tennessee counties.
Tennessee Virtual Academy has enrolled thousands of students and posted such bad scores that it’s on the brink of forced closure. But Brooks points to other smaller virtual schools performing well, and some have students from outside the typical geographic boundaries. Shelby County, which has 150 students, has opened enrollment statewide.
“My argument would be do you want to continue what Memphis is doing?” Brooks asks. “You have other virtual academies that have students from within their district and from outside their district.”
Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), who is a member of the House Education Committee, says he would “hate to just wipe them all off.”
“But we’ve got to do something about this Tennessee Virtual Academy,” he says. “What a mess.”
Pitts says there’s nothing wrong with virtual education. But the legislature should consider adding oversight before extending the law another four years. He suggests enrollment caps and allowing the state to intervene after one year of poor test results instead of two.