Short-Circuited: The Challenge Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California


San Francisco – One would expect that California, with its abundance of technology companies, would have a leading advantage in the online learning revolution. But in fact, when it comes to harnessing technology and applying it to public education, the state is lagging in many respects. Short-Circuited: The Challenges Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California (2nd edition), explores the state’s technological landscape and examines several areas where the actions of state and local governments, as well as education special interest groups have impeded the expansion of distance and online learning. Short-Circuited was written by Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow and PRI Senior Director of Education Studies.

While broadband Internet is accessible to more than 68 percent of California homes with children, many K-12 students still find it difficult to take advantage of online learning opportunities because of a variety of obstacles. In Short-Circuited, Mr. Izumi discusses a number of barriers, including government red tape, funding disparities, union opposition, and systemic inertia and dysfunction.

In order to remove the obstacles to online learning alternatives and allow more students to take advantage of emerging options, Mr. Izumi makes the following recommendations:
• Reform the contiguous counties rule which stipulates that students can attend only those virtual charter schools located in the counties in which the students reside or in a contiguous county.
• Eliminate the 25:1 student-to-teacher ratio for virtual charter schools—a measure based on no convincing empirical evidence that it raises student achievement—and take virtual charters out of the category of independent study.
• Allow multiple authorizers for charter schools to help increase the supply of these schools.
• Lift the cap on charter school expansion, now set at 100 schools per year.
• Allow full teacher licensure reciprocity, which would allow star teachers in other states to teach students through online learning and virtual schools.
• Attach funding to each child so that they can take it to the school of their choice.

“If adopted these reforms could help expand the availability of online education alternatives and increase the number of students taking advantage of them, potentially improving student achievement and reducing costs at a time when the state budget is chronically in the red,” concluded Mr. Izumi.

“It’s time that California meets the demand of its students and provide them with opportunities to engage the technology which dominates the industries they are likely to enter upon graduation.”

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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