Thursday saw continuation of the debate over the future of virtual schools in Wisconsin, with a committee hearing on a state Senate bill. There are competing bills in the Senate and Assembly, to fund virtual schools, after the state Court of Appeals ruled that the Wisconsin Virtual Academy is in violation of several state public education statutes.
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) questioned the bill's author, Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine), asking whether Lehman would “make a commitment, to try to keep these schools open.” Lehman said the most important issues for the legislature to address are whether virtual schools should be financed at current levels, and whether they should be subject to closer oversight. “Whether or not a specific school will be open under a different financing arrangement, I can't predict or know for sure,” Lehman said. During his testimony before the Senate Education committee, Lehman conceded that the state's virtual schools are “lifesavers” for some students. But the former high school teacher said he believes the on-line schools work best with students in grades 9 through 12, particularly in smaller rural districts.
ll would reduce per-pupil state spending for virtual schools to about $3,000. Advocates rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday in support of the Assembly bill , which leaves that level funding intact.