Robert Mengerink didn’t know how much an online school really costs to operate — until he started one.
|Photo: StateImpact Ohio|
When he learned this summer that the agency he heads, the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, could offer a basic online program for less than half of what the state pays online schools per student, he was taken aback.
The county this fall started letting school districts enroll students in an online program that offers a computer, an online curriculum and teachers connected to the students online.
The cost? About $2,980 per student for a full course load all year. Meanwhile, Ohio pays all online charter schools about $5,700 per student, the same amount it gives a standard charter school with a building and classrooms. That rises to an average of $6,337 per student statewide after extra special education funding is added.
"You can do a quality program for less than $6,000," said Mengerink. "That’s key. I was a little surprised that we could do it as inexpensively as this and still have a quality program."TRECA Digital Academy, another publicly operated provider of online K-12 education, says it can do it for about $3,600 per student.
That potential savings highlights questions that critics of online schools have been asking for years: What really happens to that taxpayer-provided money? Is most of it going to educate students? Or are schools pocketing a large profit while cutting corners for students?
Source: StateImpact Ohio