Reader: Cyber schools can be last hope for at-risk students

TO THE EDITOR:

The guest editorial “Cyber school defenders too transparent” published in the Sept. 8-9 edition of the Manistee New Advocate is a shamelessly sensational piece that grossly misrepresents and continues an unwarranted assault on cyber school academies.

Michigan Department of Education and their Intermediate School Districts control the flow of federal funding dollars for special education students, and they are notoriously slow in passing those funds through to the schools and entities that actually provide the services, if ever.

Manistee should be proud to host the central office of Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy (MGLVA).

MGLVA is an online public charter school, authorized by and fully partnered with Manistee Area Public Schools (MAPS). MGLVA is tuition-free and serves over 3,000 K-12 students from across Michigan, and has launched a career technical education program which stands to help Michigan meet the needs of its youth and workforce in the future.

MGLVA’s teachers are qualified and meet/exceed the same standards that brick and mortar teachers do. It provides the same 1,098 hours of instruction per year that brick and mortar schools do.

The curriculum provider does not reap windfall profits from the school – most funding goes right back into school operations, which includes providing computers and books for every single student, providing individualized instruction for those who need it, a full line of special education services, testing, as well as other resources geared toward helping at-risk students that otherwise would fall through the cracks. All of these services are provided at no cost to the student. At MGLVA, the teacher is face to face with the students over a real-time audio/video connection.

Contrary to the editorial, MGLVA does not drain resources away from our school district, it contributes a significant positive financial impact to MAPS every year as part of the authorizing agreement. While MGLVA and other virtual schools may not enjoy the state’s highest graduation rates or test scores, they often outperform some of the local urban districts they draw many students from.

Cyber schools can be the last hope for at-risk students to ever get an education or graduate from high school. Bullied students or those that live in dangerous neighborhoods or attend unsafe schools may simply drop out. The online experience is a valuable option and an essential part of our state’s educational system. Cyber schools have a harder time improving academic performance when a high percentage of the students were failing in a brick and mortar school that has already failed them. MDE isn’t helping by cutting funding.

Always consider that there are at least two sides to every story. MGLVA is just getting started. We will share more success stories in the future instead of focusing on MDE’s desperate efforts to stifle innovation and satisfy their special interests, the ISDs and other parties that are only interested in preserving the status quo and holding onto taxpayer dollars for their own uses, not student benefit.

Ron Villamaria

Vice president, MGLVA Board of Directors

 

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Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

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