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Virtual Approval

On Monday, March 3, while MEA members spoke before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee about proposed DOE rules for Educator Evaluation, the Maine Charter School Commission voted on the approval of the Maine Connections Academy (MCA). Assuming MCA supporters can meet the 13 criteria for final approval set out by the Commissioners, Maine will have its first virtual school in September 2014.

MCA, contracting with Pearson the mega-corporation that partners with, among other things, University of Phoenix, America's Choice, Teacher Performance Assessment, Achieve/PARCC testing, GED, GradNation, Gates Foundation, SAT10, and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, now has a foot in the door of public education in our small state.

Similar to the charter schools that have already opened in Maine, MCA will receive money from a local district for any child who moves from the classroom or from homeschooling to the virtual world. The first year MCA will have 270 students in grades 7-12 and can grow to 750. The homeschoolers will be new costs to any district since as such they do not receive subsidy but as new virtual students they will. The impact on some districts could be astronomical.

On March 4, the Great Lakes Center released its second annual Virtual Schools Report "that cautions against unchecked expansion." Of the virtual schools receiving state accountability/performance ratings only 33.75% had academically acceptable ratings. On average their Adequate Yearly Progress was 22% lower than traditional public schools, and their graduation rates fell to 43.85% The Great Lakes Center recommendation is for policymakers to slow or stop growth of virtual schools until poor performance has been addressed. Understanding Maine lawmakers submitted a moratorium bill for virtual schools in Maine until January 2015. As expected the bill was vetoed by Governor LePage, a long-time supporter of charter and virtual schools, within hours of passage.

MEA's concern is for the students in Maine. Even as our funding is reduced to feed virtual schools, we will continue to strive for student success in pre-K-higher education. In the future we will be left with cleaning up the mess left behind by virtual schools that do not educate our students to acceptable levels, and we will do that too.

We do it because our students are the future of Maine. They matter.

MEA Benefits Trust

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