The Online Coursework Debate: The Battle for School Funding Turns to Online Classes

How schools are funded in the K-12 sector continues to be a contentious issue. The advent of online classes has fostered new debate over how education dollars should be spent. Some argue that online courses are the key to improving the K-12 system through increased options and availability for students. Those who disapprove say that online courses, which often include for-profit companies, are a way of privatizing education and compromising integrity to shrink government spending.

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More Choice, Cheaper Education

Online courses offer many exciting opportunities for students. Among these is the chance to experience wider course offerings than are available in a face-to-face environment. When schools partner with online coursework providers, students can pool their interests with peers across the district, state or country. Plus, the student who needs a course to graduate but can't find it at a conducive time for his or her schedule can now fulfill the requirement online.

The impact this can have on school budgets is significant. Outsourcing teaching to online providers results in the need for fewer teachers on staff at a school. It can also help mitigate overcrowding, thereby improving the quality and value of education. Proponents of the expansion of online courses hope to combat the rising costs of teachers' salaries and benefits while providing more options for students.

Selling Our Children's Classrooms

The push for online coursework in K-12 schools has drawn its fair share of protestors. Few can argue that many state governments are in a state of fiscal crisis and that tough budget decisions are necessary. Yet detractors of online courses argue that education is not the place for major cuts.

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Among the most vocal critics are teachers' unions. They argue that their jobs are being sacrificed in an attempt to funnel taxpayer money towards for-profit companies. They question the legitimacy and educational merit of private education companies, which have often been attacked for cutting corners in the pursuit of increased revenue. Additionally, in states like Utah, elected officials who support online courses have been criticized for accepting donations from the same private education companies that their proposed policies would benefit.

A Controversial Future

As technology improves and the availability of online coursework rises, there is sure to be a prolonged debate on its role as a cost saver in K-12 education. The benefits online courses provide in terms of reducing expenses are clear. Yet those benefits are couched in fears surrounding their academic costs. Ultimately, the debate hinges on the question of whether cheaper online courses can truly be an effective replacement for more expensive face-to-face education.

In addition to those in K-12, children in early education are facing budget cuts that may limit their programming options.

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