Putting Education Reform To The Test

Article Rebuts Assertion That Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools


A recent article in The Nation magazine accused business leaders of using legislative tactics to hide their true intentions, which include privatizing virtual public schools. Writer Lee Fang talked about Florida as a leader in the pursuit of privatized education through vouchers and charter schools. But another writer says Fang got it wrong.

Fang cited former Governor Jeb Bush’s “far-reaching ten-point agenda for virtual schools and online coursework.”  He wrote that a key to Bush’s success included a requirement that Florida’s public school students take some classes online.

The article quoted Patricia Levesque, who runs two education foundations chaired by Bush. At a retreat last year, Fang said she urged education reformers to spread the opposition thin by keeping them busy with legislative proposals.

Now, writer Bill Tucker takes the original article to task for what he sees as some serious flaws.

In the journal Education Next, Tucker makes the case that Fang had an agenda and did more than just incorrectly equate virtual courses with private operators. Fang, he says, repeatedly suggested that Florida Virtual School is private. Florida Virtual School is actually a state-run, public institution that offers a K-12 education. Tucker calls the school “a poster child for public sector innovation.”

Tucker acknowledges there are concerns about online learning programs, including mixed outcomes for students. But he suggests that a lot of good programs shouldn’t be lumped in with a few bad ones. He ends by saying that strong oversight “is essential. So, too, is knowledgeable and objective reporting.”

So, who’s right? Let us know what you think.


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