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School Superintendent Urges Parents to Lobby for Moratorium on Virtual Charter Schools

Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barsinger is asking parents to write their legislators to support HB 494, which seeks a one-year moratorium on virtual charter schools.

  • Editor's note: This is a letter sent by Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barsinger asking parents to write their legislators to support HB 494, which seeks a one-year moratorium on virtual charter schools.

 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We need your help.

You may have seen in the news that 18 school districts in the area received a proposal from Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. to operate an online charter school in all 18 districts. Batavia Public School District 101 was included in this proposal. The online school would be open to students in kindergarten through grade 12.

Funding for the online school would come directly from state dollars that normally go to fund our districts. We find this problematic at a time when state education funding is challenging, at best. The proposal calls for Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. to receive over $8,000 in state funding for every BPS101 student who enrolls in the online school. If the student drops out of the online school and wants to return to BPS101, the funds remain with Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc.

In addition to a loss in state funding, there are also serious concerns about K12, Inc., the for-profit company that is contracted to run the online charter school. At a public hearing in March, our board questioned a representative from K12, Inc. Based on K12, Inc.'s performance, we have concerns about the online school's curriculum, quality of teachers, support for students with special needs, low test scores, lack of extra-curricular opportunities and graduation rate. 

In Illinois, charter schools must be approved by local school boards. If they are not approved, the charter school can appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which is operated by the Illinois State Board of Education. Although all 18 local school boards voted down the proposal, Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. has said it will appeal the decision with the Illinois State Charter School Commission. The commission may supersede local control and overturn the local school boards' decisions.

Legislators in Springfield have already started the process of placing a one-year moratorium on the establishment of virtual charter schools. This would allow legislators in Springfield to study and gather as much information as possible before approving these controversial online schools.

The HB 494 bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on by the Senate in the next few weeks. This is where we need your help. We are asking parents to contact the Illinois Senate president and your state senator to ask them to support HB 494 for the following reasons:

  • Virtual charter schools were not in existence at the time the current law was created;
  • The current funding formula for charters is not applicable. Virtual charter schools do not require brick and mortar buildings, transportation, food services, security, etc.; and
  • Research is inconclusive as to the effectiveness of K-12 virtual charter schools.

For your convenience, we have provided the following contact information:

John Cullerton, Illinois Senate President
217-782-2728
cullerton@senatedem.illinois.gov

Karen McConnaughay, Senator 33rd District
217-782-1977
karenmcconnaughay33@gmail.com

Jim Oberweis, Senator 25th District
217-782-0471
jimo@ilga.gov

Linda Holmes, Senator 42nd District
217-782-0422
holmes@senatedem.illinois.gov

To be clear — it's not that we do not support online education; it's that we do not believe that the for-profit K12, Inc. and Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. provide a better educational opportunity for our students.

Thank you for your support.

Dr. Jack Barshinger
Superintendent
School District 101

Factchecker April 25, 2013 at 12:49 AM
If the local school districts were doing such a great job, Virtual learning solutions would not have been invited here by over 1,000 parents to present its proposal. The only reason Jack Barshinger would advocate against choice is because he, and his staff, have done a mediocre job of educating our students and a scandalously poor job of educating our special education students. just look at the Illinois report card. Administrators must realize that Batavia parents will not accept the status quo with our high property taxes and a future tax bomb looming due to pension mismanagement at the state level. Hopefully, charter schools will sniff the blood in the water and there will be more choices beyond an online charter school.
Jen April 25, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Why doesn't he just come out and say that he's concerned about the golden lining in his pockets?
FoxValley April 29, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Dr. Jack's points would be downright laughable if it were not for the fact that the district's taxpayers will be forced to fund his retirement package that is FAR more generous than what the private sector would EVER provide. His transparent attempts to do nothing more than avoid 'biting the hand that feeds him' are despicable. Of course the saddest part is that he believes that hand belongs to the Springfield politicians and teacher's union thugs when of course it's ours. Once again, the taxpayers are held hostage to these fools. When will we WAKE UP?
FlexYourHead May 01, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Do some research before you make inane comments.However you dimwits feel about the superintendent, this would be a terrible idea. And to the moron who made the union thugs crack, those union thugs are your kids teachers genius.
FoxValley May 01, 2013 at 07:17 PM
You're no doubt a product of public education, Flex. Your ad hominem was my first clue. There's plenty of "research" to view in the comments here, except for yours. Those union thugs (i.e. - Karen Lewis, et al) I refer to have nothing to do with teaching kids.

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