NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Cyber Schools" Challenge Public School Monopolies

April 5, 2002

Champions of the public-school status quo now have "cyber schools" to worry about. Cyber schools seek to bypass traditional classrooms and take teaching directly to the students' homes via the computer. Public school administrators and teachers unions don't want public education funds to follow them. School districts in Pennsylvania, in fact, are banding together to fight public funding of the projects.

  • Many states have long had laws that allow students to attend schools outside their immediate neighborhoods -- with increased public funds flowing to the most popular institutions.
  • Now, about 50 online schools have taken root, where children -- freed of any geographic boundaries at all -- communicate with their teachers and other students via telephone, chat room and e-mail.
  • Most are publicly funded and sponsored -- but linked to for-profit entities.
  • Cyber schools offer broader opportunities for high achievers in search of more-challenging courses -- and for the 850,000 children who are home schooled.

With fewer than 50,000 students enrolled nationwide, cyber schools currently account for a small portion of the 53 million K-12 students, or the nearly $400 billion in annual education spending.

But that is changing as companies pitch online education as a way for school districts to stretch resources and maybe even make money.

Source: Robert Tomsho, "Controversy Flares Over Public Funding of 'Cyber Schools,'" Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2002.

For WSJ text,,SB1017956771773469560,00.html


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