Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017

Alex MolnarGary MironCharisse GulosinoChristopher ShankCaryn DavidsonMichael K. BarbourLuis HuertaSheryl Rankin ShaferJennifer King Rice, and David Nitkin

April 11, 2017

Press Release

Press Citations


In the five years since the first NEPC Annual Report on Virtual Education was released in 2013, virtual education continues to be a focal point for policymakers. Proponents argue that virtual education can expand student choices and improve the efficiency of public education. In particular, full-time virtual schools (also sometimes referred to as virtual charter schools, virtual academies, online schools or cyber schools) have attracted a great deal of attention. Many believe that online curriculum can be tailored to individual students more effectively than curriculum in traditional classrooms, giving it the potential to promote greater student achievement than can be realized in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Further, the promise of lower costs—primarily for instructional personnel and facilities—makes virtual schools financially appealing to both policymakers and for-profit providers. The 2017 NEPC Annual Report contributes to the existing evidence related to virtual education, and so to debates surrounding it. It provides objective analysis of the characteristics and performance of full-time, publicly funded K-12 virtual schools; available research on virtual school practices and policy; and an overview of recent state efforts to craft new policy.

Click here to read the complete brief.


Voucher Information Websites

The following resource sites are offered to help those who study vouchers and their effect on public education:

Voucher Research

Education Savings Accounts: Vouchers That Stop At The Bank On Their Way to Privatize Public Education

Education Savings Accounts: Vouchers That Stop At The Bank On Their Way to Privatize Public Education” is a policy review by your AFT state policy team. It is on Leadernet. Education savings accounts are the cutting edge in the right’s efforts to privatize public schools. We suspect this is because these programs can be used for support of schooling at home, and be used to partially subsidize tuition at more expensive private schools, thus solving problems within the voucher coalition. Note: Like other Leadernet documents, this is intended specifically to give you context and help you respond in your state if you are dealing with one of these threats.

Stanford Study: Investment in Public Schools Better than Privatization

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education has released a new research-based analysis that supports investment in public schools as a better alternative than the privatization of education. The book, Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes, provides a powerful analysis of these different ends of an ideological spectrum – from market-based experiments to strong state investments in public education. The book was released with a policy brief summarizing the findings of the book; an infographic highlighting different approaches and outcomes of privatization versus public investment; a brief video overview of the differences models; a more in-depth video, and an infographic looking specifically at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

State Tax Subsidies for Private K-12 Education

“State Tax Subsidies for Private K-12 Education” is a new report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. This is a bit of blockbuster. It reviews state programs that create tax credits for private voucher programs. They find that if you are wealthy enough to pay the federal Alternative Minimum Tax, that you will often be able to get a federal deduction in addition to the state tax credit. (NB ITEP finds this is NOT an issue for the programs in Florida, Kansas, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Dakota where you just get the state credit). In Indiana, you can’t quite turn a profit because the combined state credit and federal deduction is still less than 100% of the contribution. But in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia your combined tax benefits will equal more than your contribution. Rich people profit and less money is available for public services. Remember that Donald Trump wants to use his proposed $20 billion federal voucher/charter/block grant scheme to encourage more states to adopt programs like this. The AFT press release is here and if you are fighting this, you might want to include something about it in your communications. Key quote from Randi Weingarten: “Now, ITEP has revealed that the so-called education tax credits are actually being used by the rich to profit from tax breaks and incentives generated by supposed charitable donations to private schools.”

Private School Choice Programs Are Growing and Can Complicate Certain Federally Funded Services to Eligible Students

“Private School Choice Programs are Growing And Can Complicate Certain Federally Funded Services to Eligible Students.” This report, while focusing on how voucher programs interact with federal educational funding streams, has a wide variety of additional information about voucher programs. AFT’s statement can help contextualize the report: “With this report, the GAO confirms basic facts we have long known: While public schools have the responsibility for educating all students, many voucher schools take public funding while picking and choosing students based on their academic and behavioral characteristics. Voucher schools don’t abide by the same academic quality standards as public schools. They blur the lines separating church and state. Finally, vouchers exacerbate inequity by directly draining critical funding away from public schools—often the schools that need that funding most.“ The results are summarized in this fact sheet from Congressman Mark Pocan, who was one of the congressional requestors of the study.

On Negative Effects of Vouchers – Brookings Institute Research 

Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large. These studies used rigorous research designs that allow for strong causal conclusions. And they showed that the results were not explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers transferred out of above-average public schools. Read full article here….