Will Internet replace failing schools?

BATON ROUGE (CNS)—More than two dozen entities have filed applications with the Louisiana Department of Education for approval to offer online courses as an alternative to failing schools.

Course providers were cut in for a slice of education funds pie by in HB 976 (Act 2) which provides for the teaching of virtual classes online.

The early submission deadline for potential course providers was Aug. 17 and the early deadline for the Department of Education (DOE) to review to accept, defer or reject applicants is Sept. 14. The interview of applicants who have been tentatively approved will begin on Sept. 18 and DOE is scheduled to post the accepted applications online by Sept. 28.

There were 25 applicants as of Tuesday, Aug. 21, according to documents provided by DOE.

The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Act, as HB 976 is officially known, directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to create a “reciprocal teacher certification process” for teachers who reside in other states by next January.

Under terms of the act, postsecondary education institutions may serve as quality course providers for students who seek advanced level course work or technical or vocational instruction. Because “technical” and “vocational” were included in the bill’s language, that could mean that “postsecondary education institutions” would include not only traditional universities and colleges, but individuals, vocational and technical schools and proprietary schools.

But the bill goes on to specify that business and industry may also serve as “quality course providers that offer course work in their particular field of expertise.”

Courses would be available to students attending a public school that receives a letter grade of “C,” “D,” or “R,” or who is attending a public school that does not offer the course in which a student desires to enroll, the act says.

The 25 applicants and courses offered include:

·         ATS Project Success, Clinton Township, Michigan (K-12 online, English/language arts, math, science, social studies);

·         McKinney Byrd Academy, Shreveport (high school, career and technical education/apprentice (CTE) program, business tech and computer apps, hospitality, early childhood, urban farming/landscaping and hair care techniques);

·         Lincoln National Academy, Dallas (high school core and elective courses including career and technical education courses);

·         Pelican Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Baton Rouge and Westlake (online, face-to-face courses in carpentry, electrical, instrumentation, heavy equipment, millwright, mobile crane, pipefitting, welding);

·         Work Ready Education and Career Services, Philadelphia, PA. (comprehensive core curriculum and career and technical education courses);

·         Plato Learning, Bloomington, MN. (K-12, CTE, advanced placement (AP), full curriculum of courses);

·         iSpace Educational Services, dba iSpace, Inc., of Princeton, N.J. (grades 3-6);

·         Louisiana Education Television Authority/Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Baton Rouge (AP, French I and II, Spanish I and II, Fine Arts Survey and Environmental Science);

·         Bayard Management Group, Slidell (face to face, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, St. Tammany, Orleans, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes);

·         JRL Enterprises, New Orleans (online K-12);

·         Educational Bedrock, Inc., Baton Rouge (corporate/industry, East Baton Rouge, Baker, Zachary, St. Helena—math, engineering prep and internships in welding, carpentry, electrical, auto technology, pharmacy, cosmetology, dental assistant);

·         Princeton Review, Farmington, MA, not affiliated with Princeton University (ACT prep);

·         Cyber Innovation Center, Bossier City (variety of innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education (STEM) courses);

·         Multiple Teaching Systems, Baton Rouge (K-8 curriculum);

·         Scholar Apprentice Tutoring, Baton Rouge (array of career and technical education offerings);

·         Sylvan Learning (ACT and AP tutoring, credit recovery courses);

·         K12, Herndon, VA. (comprehensive high school academic offerings, including AP course offerings);

·         EducateMe, Fairfield NJ (education software for schools);

·         Florida Virtual School, Orlando, FL (“extremely broad” array of core curriculum and AP course offerings);

·         Apex Learning, Mandeville (headquarters Seattle, WA) (“very extensive” array of core curriculum courses);

·         Southern University, Baton Rouge (“very broad array” of academic and elective courses, middle school through college credit);

·         Head First, North Miami Beach, FL (broad array of academic and career and technical education courses);

·         mSchool, no address (grade 6-12 math curricula);

·         Gerald “Jude” Dubois, Vermilion Parish educational entrepreneur (math);

·         Connections Education, Baltimore, MD (three applications covering AP offerings across a number of academic subjects and core curriculum course offerings).

            HB 976 contains an extra incentive to attract online course providers: “The course provider shall receive a course amount for each eligible funded student” at an amount equal to the market rate “as determined by the course provider” and reported to DOE.

            Simply stated, course providers are given carte blanche to set their own rates.

            And to hedge their bets, some providers took the added precaution of making contributions to the campaigns of legislators, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Gov. Bobby Jindal. Here are a few of those:

Pelican Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors:

·         Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans)—$2500;

·         BESE member Holly Boffy—$5000;

·         Rep. Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge)—$10,000;

·         Rep. Simone Champagne (R-Erath)—$2250;

·         Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge)—$500;

·         Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell)—$1000;

·         Former Sen. Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans)—$3000;

·         Former Rep. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro)—$3500;

·         Sen. Dale Erdy (R-Livingston)—$500;

·         Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro)—$500;

·         Rep. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge)—$2250;

·         BESE member James Garvey—$5000;

·         Rep. Ray Garofalo, Jr. (R-Chalmette)—$5000;

·         Rep. Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge)—$1000;

·         Former Sen. Nick Gautreaux (D-Meaux)—$500;

·         Rep. Mickey Guillory (D-Eunice)—$2500;

·         BESE member Jay Guillot (R-Ruston)—$5000;

·         Former Rep. Ricky Hardy (D-Lafayette)—2500;

·         Rep. Kenneth Havard (R-Jackson)—$2500;

·         Rep. Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville)—$2500;

·         BESE member Carolyn Hill—$5000;

·         Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs)—$2500;

·         Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe)—$2250;

·         Rep. Dalton Honoré (D-Baton Rouge)—2250;

·         Former Rep. Michael Jackson (D-Baton Rouge)—2500;

·         House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles)—$500;

·         Sen. Robert Kostelka (R-Monroe)—$500;

·         Rep. Anthony Ligi (R-Metairie)—$3500;

·         Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches)—2500;

·         Former Rep. Nickie Monica (R-LaPlace)—1000