North Carolina leaders may push for more online learning options

December 26, 2012

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Ben Velderman Ben Velderman

Ben was a communications specialist for EAG from 2010 until August 2014. He is a former member of the Michigan Education Association.
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RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina families might see a big increase in learning options for their children after Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Forest takes office early next month.

computerguyNorth Carolina already allows charter schools and “operates the nation’s second-largest state online learning system,” but those choices might expand once Forest takes office, reports CarolinaJournal.com.

Forest is an outspoken advocate for online learning and virtual charter schools, and he will have considerable influence in setting North Carolina’s education policy – both as a member of the State Board of Education, as well as chairman of the state’s eLearning Commission, the news site reports.

Final policy decisions will be made by Forest’s boss, Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, who has sidestepped the issue so far.

But since both men are Republicans – the political party that’s traditionally open to giving parents a say over where their children attend school – an expansion of North Carolina’s school choice options could well be in the cards.

Last year’s effort to allow a virtual charter school into the state was singlehandedly shut down by the State Board of Education chairman, notes CarolinaJournal.com. That matter is still being sorted out by the courts, but Forest has made it clear he will push for more school choice options.

“We need to break some monopolies that have been held by the teachers unions and the state school board in terms of calling all the shots, and allowing parents to have more say” in their children’s educational choices, Forest told CarolinaJournal.com.

The news site notes there are a number of reasons some students need online learning options.

“Students take online courses for a variety of reasons,” notes CarolinaJournal.com. “Some are young parents. Others may need to work to support their families. Some may be victims of bullying or have medical conditions that make traditional school challenging, and still others may live in small or rural districts that do not offer the curriculum they desire.”

Tar Heel families seem to want more learning options, but Forest and McRory will have to do battle with the educational establishment if those options are to become reality.

“ … [T]he resistance to the idea is originating from the traditional public schools and the advocacy groups that support them, the North Carolina Association of Educators, North Carolina School Boards Association, and their ilk,” education analyst Terry Stoops told the news site.

If the State Board of Education doesn’t cooperate with the incoming governor and lieutenant governor, they could work directly with state legislators to establish a policy for virtual schools, Stoops said.

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