Party Lines in Virtual Schooling?

By Ian Quillen — June 17, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Is virtual schooling a Red or Blue cause?

I’ll confess that, for better or worse, I entered this beat assuming most supporters of online education would fall into the progressive/liberal camp. But I’m starting to sense that, at the very least, the cause can be selectively championed by both sides. Moreover, it may be one that has been more effectively championed by (fiscal and libertarian) conservatives.

A May policy brief by the Florida free-market think tank The James Madison Institute heaps more praise on the already-revered Florida Virtual School. Claiming that virtual schools are more equipped to prepare students for a “knowledge-based economy” and able to do so at a lesser cost per student, the brief pushes Florida to seize on its role as a national leader in online learning to shift public education to a structure where the time and progress of a school day takes a backseat to a focus on the quantity and quality of concepts mastered.

Pretty uncontroversial, nonpartisan stuff, right? While the National Collegiate Athletic Association has expressed its position that virtual education courses that do not mandate some time frame for completion may not require proper rigor, I think it’s a safe bet that most instructors, brick-and-mortar or otherwise, would love the benefit of some extra time to help students who are eager to learn but not the quickest of learners.

Yet, in Florida, at least, the issue of virtual education is, or at least was, a conservative cause during FLVS’s inception. Julie Young, the chief executive officer of FLVS, said in an April meeting with reporters from Education Week that a key spark for the creation of FLVS was Republican Jeb Bush’s presence in the governor’s office at the time, as well as Republican majorities in the legislature.

Of course, with the recent release of the National Education Technology Plan and the National Broadband Plan by the Obama administration, it would be hard to say Republicans own virtual education advocacy.

Karen Cator, who heads technology initiatives for the U.S. Education Department, told EdWeek, “Technology allows us to create more engaging and compelling learning opportunities for students and allows us to personalize the learning experience,” indicating a willingness to increase blended learning opportunities. And one of the broadband plan’s key points was expanding high-speed Internet access to all communities by upgrading current telephone infrastructure to ensure low-income and rural students can gain necessary Internet access to undertake online education assignments.

Perhaps it’s more a matter of how you frame virtual schooling. Conservatives seem to boast the benefits of expanding opportunities to all students while streamlining costs for the education provider. Liberals appear to advocate the benefits of leveling the playing field for disadvantaged or geographically isolated students.

Is that a fair analysis? And if so, is either approach working better?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP