Colin Woodard’s extensive piece of investigative reporting (article, Sept. 2) reveals a significant threat to local control of our public schools and to public education itself. If the proposed virtual schools are permitted, control of educational content and teacher qualifications will pass to for-profit corporations. These commercial operations would prepare digital lessons to be delivered in a home setting.

Such lessons are now available for home schoolers, but home schooling is still overseen and approved by local boards, and public funding is not provided. Virtual schools would siphon tax dollars from local schools and into the pockets of the corporate operators. Already struggling with budget constraints, Maine schools would be seriously affected by that financial loss.

Woodard’s report demonstrates an apparent link between the administration of Gov. Paul LePage, conservative think tanks and commercial educational material producers.

Perhaps this connection explains the governor’s outrageous denigration of the public schools of Maine.

Beyond the financial motive, there is also an ideological agenda. Woodard reveals the connections of Maine Education Commission to the conservative think tanks American Legislative Exchange Council and the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Freed from local control of educational content, virtual schools would not be constrained by the separation of church and state.

A significant role of public education is to prepare citizens of our democracy to be knowledgeable and perceptive. Without an informed and thoughtful citizenry, a democracy is vulnerable to takeover by a conspiracy of ideological or commercial special interests.

Jonathan Robbins