Cyber school bill moves to House floor

This morning, the House Education Committee reported out SB 619-623 and 709-710 with amendments that differ from the original Senate-approved bills. Despite evidence and testimony that full-time virtual schools  are not an effective replacement for a traditional public school education, all of these bills on cyber schools and dual enrollment were sent to the full House on a largely party line vote.

SB 619, which lifts the two-year, two-school cap on cyber schools, passed with a substitute that impacts cyber schools of excellence. Through Dec. 31, 2013, only 15 contracts for a school of excellence that is a cyber school can be issued by a public university or community college. After that date, the number is raised to 30.

Nine Democratic amendments failed. The amendments—the majority proposed by Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield)—addressed transparency and accountability issues. One of her amendments would have prevented cyber school expansion until a required two-year report was released this year; another would have required all cyber school exams to be proctored to prevent cheating.

Even though the bill passed along party lines with 10 yeas, 8 nays and one pass, Republicans Rep. Tom Hooker voted no and Republican Rep. Kurt Heise passed.

SB 621, also reported out with a substitute, allows any district or charter school located in an ISD—or in a contiguous ISD-- to receive state aid if they provide classes to private and home-schooled students.

Democrats were successful in amending SB 622 before it was reported out. SB 622 expands dual enrollment and Rep. Rudy Hobbs (D-Lathrup Village) inserted language that requires at least one parent to be a Michigan resident in order for an out-of-state student to take advantage of state aid funds for college classes. Other changes to the bill dealt with course restrictions. The remaining dual enrollment bills—SB 623 and 709-10—were also reported out.

While lobbyists are reviewing the new versions of the bills, your priority is contacting state representatives and urging them to vote NO on SB 619. Cyber schools are a risky for-profit adventure that will only benefit corporations and CEOs. There’s no evidence that students, public education or this state will see any benefits.