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Sen. Mary Lazich: Davis bill is virtual school solution
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One of the signs at a large rally at the state Capitol read, "Don't kick me out of school, I didn't do anything wrong." In a demonstration of democracy at its finest, more than 1,100 students, parents and teachers gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday in a crusade to save Wisconsin's virtual schools.

Unlike the typical brick and mortar institution, in a virtual school all student services and courses are taught through Internet technology.

An appellate court ruled during December 2007 that the Wisconsin Virtual Academy online school in Ozaukee County violates some state laws and should be denied millions of dollars in state aid. It is now up to the Legislature to develop a fix to preserve virtual schools and prevent up to 3,000 students from being tossed out of schools.

Virtual schools are positive alternatives to standard brick and mortar schools. Families of students enrolled in virtual schools find the online approach to instruction has enhanced educational opportunities.

One of the parents is Pat from Waukesha County. Pat wrote that her son was languishing for eight years in a traditional school setting because the work was too simple. Then Pat discovered the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA).

"What sparked my interest were the mastery-based curriculum provided and the guidance of a licensed teacher to provide accountability. The teacher would get concrete evidence of his mastery of subjects and guide us where to go next. My son wouldn't have to keep re-visiting the same concepts year after year after year thus exacerbating the boredom with which he was dealing. This looked like curricula that would feed his brain rather than dull it," Pat wrote.

Wisconsin Virtual Academy worked, literally transforming Pat's son and his educational experience.

"Where he used to come home shaking with frustration from the brick and mortar school, he now ends his day talking about school in a positive way. My child is infinitely happier and emotionally healthier now that his academic needs are being met. Some days he does double lessons, some days triple, and some days none at all; but most importantly he's learning at his own pace in his own way with a joy that was absent in the brick and mortar school and WIVA has made this happen for him," Pat wrote. Pat's success story is one of thousands being played out in virtual schools in Wisconsin.

The Legislature is now considering two bills on virtual schools.

Assembly Bill 697 (AB 697), proposed by Republican state Rep. Brett Davis stipulates that a person in the home, likely a parent assisting a virtual school student, is not required to hold a teaching license or permit. The bill also eliminates the requirement that a virtual school student must live in the school district that the virtual school is located.

Senate Bill 396 (SB 396), proposed by Democrat state Sen. John Lehman would likely eliminate virtual schools in Wisconsin. Sen. Lehman's bill slashes state aid to virtual schools by 50 percent. Keep in mind virtual schools are already funded at a significant savings to the brick and mortar schools.

Sen. Lehman's bill also imposes restrictions and regulations that would impair the progress virtual schools have made. The bill creates physical residency requirements in a virtual school district, and mandates direct teacher-student contact daily.

AB 697 is the necessary legislative fix, a veritable life-saver for retaining quality education options. The reality is that SB 396 kills virtual schools.

The approach to education should not be one size fits all. Data reveals virtual school student success and test scores exceed brick and mortar schools. Virtual schools provide an innovative alternative.

Shutting them down would be tragic for thousands of families and children benefiting from a virtual education. Wisconsin needs to nurture, explore, and expand quality education, rather than limit or eliminate education opportunities.

Thank you to Waukesha School District Superintendent David Schmidt testifying against Democratic Sen. Lehman's bill and in support of Republican Rep. Brett Davis' bill. Importantly, thank you to Superintendent Schmidt for his role in creating and promoting Waukesha School District IQ Academy. You may visit Waukesha IQ Academy at:

- Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, can be reached at or

(800) 334-1442.