Occupy Protestors rally against online schools


March 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

“Occupy Des Moines” protestors gathered in front of the State Capital in Des Moines Friday night, to voice their concerns over numerous education-related issues being debated in state, including state funding for online education provided by private companies. The Des Moines Register reports in its Saturday edition, that the biggest concern raised by speakers and the audience was the funneling of state money toward online academies rather than public schools. A provision in the education reform bill allows up to 900 Iowa students to be enrolled in for-profit online academies administered by local districts. The bill also addresses teacher preparation and teacher and student evaluation.

Last week, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said online schools are allowed under state law. Miller’s opinion was in response to a request by a state senator after two districts, CAM and Clayton Ridge, said they plan to launch online-only programs run by for-profit companies next school year. Miller says online courses are permitted, as long as the curriculum is taught by a licensed teacher and that students enrolled in the course are supervised.

Critics have argued the schools are illegal under a clause in the Iowa Code that says school districts are only allowed to do what is expressly stated in law. Miller disputes that claim, but says education officials should monitor the emergence of online-only programs in Iowa. Those in attendance at Friday night’s event at the State Capital also addressed concerns over reductions in state funding for public universities and UNI program cuts.