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February 20, 2008

Virtual Schools Threatened
by Senate Democrats

State Capitol, Madion — Nearly a month after a bipartisan compromise was reached that would have preserved innovative virtual education for children, parents, and educators, State Senate Democratic Leadership broke the agreement by amending the original bill to limit educational opportunities.

Virtual schools, which operate as public charter schools, offer an online environment for parents to gain additional instruction for their children. State Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) supported original legislation to enable virtual schools to continue with certified teachers, but objected to arbitrary caps on enrollment.

Grantsburg School Administrator Joni Burgin, which hosts a virtual school for students statewide, expressed her disappointment with the amendment to cap enrollment.

“Wisconsin does a fine job of educating most students, but the drop out rate, especially in urban areas is unacceptable. Virtual High Schools have been serving these students,” stated Burgin. “All students in this state deserve a chance to learn and our state needs them to be productive citizens.  I am surprised by this legislative action that will limit programs for some of our most struggling students.”

“I heard from families, teachers, and administrators about how this educational option can be critical for children with different abilities and interests,” stated Harsdorf. “This 11th hour poison pill amendment squashes innovation and educational opportunities.”

Over 3,000 students in Wisconsin use the online environment to further their education. Legislative action is essential given a ruling that prevents virtual schools from operating under current law.

“Providing parental options and utilizing innovation in education is what we should be expanding, not eliminating,” said Harsdorf.