Indiana lawmaker wants more accountability for virtual schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A state lawmaker wants to make sure students know what they’re getting themselves into before they click the mouse and jump into online schooling.

Around 10,000 students now attend school online in Indiana.

For these virtual programs to work, Republican state Rep. Bob Behning argued an adult needs to be involved in the student’s online learning.

“Well, imagine not having an adult in your education experience and expecting a child to turn on a computer and do their homework,” the Indianapolis legislator said Wednesday.

He created a bill that, if passed, would require school districts to create an orientation for students before they enroll in an online school.

“The goal is to provide more accountability, more oversight and more expectations for the adults to have more engagement in the porcess,” Behning said.

Melissa Brown is executive director of the Indianapolis-based Indiana Connections Academy. It’s a statewide K-12 public charter school with about 4,700 students who attend from home.

“This bill would allow us to give families a little better. a little more information about what it’s like to be in a virtual school before they make the really important decision to enroll,” Brown said. 

Tasha Wnavell, who was with her son, shared her thoughts: “That would be nice for some of the home schools, but I guess there would probably be a lot of people in Indiana who would fight that because that would go against what they plan on doing with their curriculum.” 

Lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday from people, most who supported the bill.

“Students and families need to be more engaged in even a physical way, not nessesarily just on the phone or over the internet,” said Sally Sloan with the American Federation of Teachers of Indiana.

Donnie Bowsman, superintendent of Randolph Southern School Corp. in east central Indiana, asked, “Why can’t we have a central set of rules that all vendors, not-for-profit, or profit, need to follow, period?” 

Lawmakers approved the bill unanimously in committee Wednesday morning. The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration next week. 

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