Hard questions yesterday for the online schools ‘experts’

As Mother Crusader wrote today, yesterday’s presentation to the Joint Committee on the Public Schools on online learning was dominated by experts tied to the entities that stand to make a profit from it.

Mother Crusader live tweeted the hearing, picking up on the observations made by Joint Committee co-Chair Sen. Ronald Rice. Rice said virtual schooling wasn’t new. What is new, he said, is who’s behind it and that New Jersey can do this and doesn’t need hedge fund billionaires involved. Rice also expressed wariness because on line education is part of the privatization movement and Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is part of that movement – a movement he said is about taking taxpayer money and putting it into the hands of privatizers.  (It was Rice who used senatorial courtesy to stall Cerf’s confirmation hearing because he said Cerf failed to provide answers to such questions as his prior relationship with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, claiming Cerf misled him about whether he had been an advisor to Booker on vouchers and charter schools).

Today, the Assembly Democrats put out a statement from Rice’s Assembly counterpart and co-Chair, Connie Wagner, who seems to express some of the same wariness:

“We had a very lively, open discussion today on the topic of virtual charter schools that brought up wide-ranging concerns about their benefits and detriments.

“As a retired public school teacher, I support blended learning and feel that there is definitely a place for technology and online learning in the classroom.  My hesitation stems from handing the keys to that method of learning over to non- and for-profit entities.  I am not convinced they are the best delivery system for blended learning and, before we take steps down that road, we need to know precisely what we’re getting into….”

There’s a lot of money at stake. There are a lot of kids at stake. There should be hard questions.


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