Online Education Could Lead to Greater Equality and Close the Achievement Gap

Often there are private companies running online education K-12 public schools. These schools, like traditional brick and mortar public schools, are funded with the public’s tax money. Critics find this use of public funds disturbing due the lack of accountability within the online education market.

Many opponents to online education want their state government to withhold funding from these public, virtual schools. Some of the opponents to online education are remarkably also supporters of charter schools (though these virtual schools are also considered charter schools). Teacher unions all across the country, for the most part, are strongly opposed to online education. A few concerns that worry teacher’s unions are the reduction in teacher employment (due to the increased numbers of students per virtual class as compared to a traditional class), and the weakening of the union due to teachers working from home.

Advocates tend to promote how online education can tailor itself to the specific needs for each individual student, without spending time in a classroom that can take time and attention away from other students (read, efficiency). Generally, advocates would like online education to be accepted as a viable, long-term option for all children. President Obama and his administration endorsed virtual education programs in addition to more traditional charter schools in the Race to the Top program.  After the president announced the 10 winners of the funds in 2010, many noticed that all 10 winners had proposed very strong online learning initiatives in their budgets, seemingly implying that it is one of his administration’s priorities.

As we have moved away from the industrial age that dominated much of the last century into this new technological age, it would be a failure not to not begin familiarizing our children with technology from an early age. It may be too soon to consider the full integration of virtual learning as a distinct learning option for some, but those who accept (or can afford to accept) this option, may be doing their children a favor. There needs to be additional resources provided to make the “choice” of online education more accessible to multiple populations of students. This way, a child’s knowledge of computers, access to technology, and parents' knowledge and socioeconomic class level does not hinder their choice to participate in virtual education courses. In attempting to be egalitarian by offering virtual education to all students, we will inadvertently be segregating children by socioeconomic status. Students who do not have access to computers at home will be at a great disadvantage and parents who cannot afford to stay at home with their children or afford to pay for a babysitter, would not be able to choose that option. We could possibly be furthering an already outrageously large class divide in our public schools. 

In the end, online education is where we must go in order to progress and better prepare future generations, but we must give our children equal opportunities to succeed.