The local paper gave page-one space today to news that New York public schools would reopen in the fall with no option for students to attend remotely.
The issue is becoming tribal — like most other public policy decisions these days. Arkansas, as a matter of Hutchinson administration policy, resisted widespread use of remote teaching in regular public school districts. Republican politicians like Sen. Tom Cotton have tried to blame teacher fears of pandemic spread as a justification for remote classes on deadbeat union teachers. Digital learning has been a mixed bag — good for some, terrible by others, with income seeming to be a key determinant. Expecting teachers to oversee both in-person and remote students has also been a big ask.
As I noted last week, members of the state Board of Education have been going over with a fine-tooth comb the requests by dozens of Arkansas school districts to retain remote learning programs in their schools, generally for small numbers of students.
A special state Board of Education meeting is scheduled Thursday to consider requests for 20 waivers of normal rules to allow digital learning programs. The state department’s staff seems to be supportive of the requests. Some board members have questioned waivers in the number of students teachers are allowed to oversee.
The ideologues who say only in-person schooling is acceptable have yet to explain how, at the same time, they readily approve ever-increasing enrollment in “virtual charter schools” in Arkansas, two of them — Arkansas Virtual Academy and Arkansas Connections Academy — are authorized to take $7,000 per student in state money for each of 12,000 students. They enjoy waivers from most requirements that apply to real public schools, never mind gyms, cafeterias, buses, extracurricular programs and all the rest. Somehow, THEY are different.