Lawrence Virtual School
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- Digital news source links Virtual School students (12-27-06)
- Virtual school starts online newspaper (10-04-06)
- More about the Lawrence Virtual School
State auditors Tuesday posted warnings on the explosive increase of virtual schools in Kansas.
Because students don't have to be physically present to attend a virtual school, this form of education creates the risk of abuse in the form of manipulating student performance and state funding, the report by the Legislative Division of Post Audit warned.
The report found that Mullinville, a small district in southwestern Kansas, had "given" 130 of its virtual students to three nearby districts to count as their students for funding purposes.
While the effect of that situation was in dispute, the audit stated, "Kansas' actual oversight of virtual schools is weak."
The audit recommended that lawmakers conduct a full study of virtual schools after the legislative session "to preserve the integrity and promise of this alternative form of education."
"I think we have some problems," said state Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, a member of the Legislative Post-Audit Committee, which recommended more study.
Acting Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said the Department of Education would increase staffing to monitor virtual schools.
Kansas has 28 virtual schools with a total enrollment of about 2,000 students, up from 60 students from the 1998-99 school year, when the first virtual school was formed. The number of virtual students represents less than half a percent of the state's 440,000 students, but that number is growing.
The Lawrence Virtual School, which began in 2004, has about 510 students in its kindergarten through eighth-grade program, and 75 students in its virtual high school.
The audit cited no problems with Lawrence's operations. But the report focused on the lack of oversight by the state in determining whether virtual school students were being properly counted for funding purposes and properly monitored to ensure the students were getting a sound education.
Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman said he thought Lawrence's virtual program was doing a good job.
"This is not just e-mailing each other," Weseman said.
He said virtual school students still must take tests and meet with teachers.
"Our primary goal isn't to grow bigger and recruit," he said. "We're just trying to serve our own kids. It's an alternative form of education."
To view the audit on virtual schools go to www.kslegislature.org/postaudit and click on "K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to Virtual Schools."