Writings and observations

Room for mischief

We’ve never taken any particular conceptual issue with some of the hot developments in public education over the last decade, notably charter schools and virtual (or on-line) schools. Too much of public education is too bureaucratized; done right, some of these new developments could bring spring air into the system. If, of course, they’re done right; and ho well they’ve been doing is a fair question.

The Twin Falls Times News gets into some of this with a valuable lead article today pointed out how little oversight – apparently, almost none – there is of the state’s virtual schools, and of the state (taxpayer) money being spent on them.

Four online charter schools serving about 1 percent of the state’s public school students received about $10.8 million in public money for the 2007-08 school year.

But the schools combined spent only about 58 percent of the money on administration, instruction and related expenses, according to records from the State Department of Education.

Unlike other schools, virtual charter schools are allowed to keep what they don’t spend, which totaled about $4.58 million – and the State Department of Education isn’t following the money trail.

“The state does not track how schools spend the funding if they choose not to spend it on staff,” state Department of Education Spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told the Times-News.

All of which logically ought to be of great interest to Idaho taxpayers.

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