Weakened education budgets leave some turning to online education

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 17, 2012

The current economy requires major cuts across the board, and education is taking one of the hardest hits. Although the White House recently reported that the stimulus package was able to save or create 250,000 teaching jobs nationwide, massive layoffs continue to dominate headlines. In addition to faculty layoffs, students are even finding their programs cut, enrollment slashed and calendar year shortened, leaving parents to wonder what other options are out there to ensure their child is getting the best education possible.

States in turmoil

The state of Hawaii announced recently that it would be cutting its school calendar year down to 163 days, 17 days shorter than the majority of the nation's public schools. The Associated Press reports that this move was done in effort to not make any faculty layoffs for the next two years, possibly explaining why 81 percent of teachers voted in favor of it. Parents have been protesting this new deal saying that it's the children who really suffer. Even students don't see this as the best move.

"The 16-year-old in me is pretty excited that I'll be able to chill on those days," said Mark Aoki, a high school junior from Honolulu told the Associated Press. "But overall within me, what I truly believe is that we'll regret this."

California has also been making headlines for their education budget cuts, which are some of the highest in the country. The California Department of Education released a statement concerning Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to cut education by $6 billion. Similarly to Hawaii, Governor Schwarzenegger suggested cutting the school year by five days to save money. State schools in California have also felt the heat of the budget crisis, causing a reduction of 40,000 for Fall 2010 according to Indybay.org.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) announced that currently, 25 states and Washington D.C. have cut their K-12 budgets, with up to 10,000 children in Illinois possibly losing their eligibility for preschool and kindergarten. The CBPP also reports that higher education has taken a hit in 34 states, causing tuition to rise and teachers to be laid off.

Parents searching for alternatives

Virtual schools are popping up across the country for students who may not be getting the best value of education at their public schools. K12, a virtual academy provider, currently offers virtual schools in 27 states, including Hawaii, California and Arizona, some of the hardest hit by education budgets. The K12 public virtual academies are free of charge because they are considered a part of public school, and are geared towards children who don't feel like their being challenged by their current school system.

Virtual schools also allow school districts to continue to offer online versions of cut programs. When education budget cuts took away accelerated programs in Massachusetts, Virtual High School (VHS), another online education provider, allowed districts to offer students classes that were no longer a part of schools.

"VHS has allowed us to resolve scheduling conflicts, making up for not running a course due to low enrollment and as a summer school option," Dr. Eric Conti, Superintendent of the Burlington school district said in a press release.

In addition to high school, because enrollments in colleges have been forced to decrease, students are exploring online education options so they don't have to miss out on a degree. The Sloan Consortium reports that online college enrollment has increased 13 percent in the last year, with some independent institutions such as Capella University boasting a 27.7 percent increase.

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