The School Reform Commission gave the School District the green light to spend $15 million on opening a virtual school this fall. But it’ll only spend that money if 1,000 students enroll in the school this September and 1,200 in 2014.
Right now, the District is slated to spend $60 million this year in per-student payments to cyber charters. If the District opens a virtual school, it’ll save $4,100 per student per year, according to Newsworks. Nearly 6,000 students attend cyber charters (find a breakdown of how many student attend each cyber charter on Newsworks here). Every budget line counts because, as has been well-reported, the School Disrict is in dire financial straits, with a $300 million budget deficit.
This move comes a few months after Superintendent William Hite expressed concern about the growing costs of cyber charters. By 2017, cyber charters could cost the District more than $75 million a year, he said.
It’s also a matter of giving students a choice, Hite said. The virtual school plan calls to mind Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr‘s words, when she said that, because of all the new educational options, the District has to adapt to new technology or risk becoming obsolete. (Though, she wasn’t directly referring to the District opening a virtual school.)
Despite rising enrollment numbers, cyber charters have not been without controversy: two of the biggest state cyber charters are currently involved in federal corruption investigations and none of the state cybers met their federally mandated academic performance targets.
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