I disagree with the broad stroke the newspaper paints that full-time virtual charter schools are a “bad fit” for public schools.

At the public hearing, students explained reasons for needing a full-time virtual school — bullying, too much down time, teachers asking advanced students to teach others, and sitting next to disruptive students. One parent said his son had been taught the same curriculum for four years. Their need for another educational option is real.

Your repeated use of negative terms to denigrate for-profit virtual charter schools are simply red herrings and hypocritical, as Maine’s public schools do business every day with for-profit vendors out of state. The real issue is that virtual charter schools threaten to change the way public education works, by empowering parents with choice among public schools.

With 2,900 Maine students dropping out of public schools last year, Maine’s students can’t wait two or three years for a state-run virtual school. The Legislature is wrong to prevent the Charter School Commission from doing its work. By law, the commission evaluates, authorizes and monitors new public charter schools. It does an intense review, negotiates performance contracts and evaluates all public charter schools carefully for student achievement.

The two pending virtual charter schools have failed to gain approval twice, for the right reasons. Their third application met the requirements. With such strong accountability measures of public charter schools, including virtual and blended programs, Maine has an opportunity to help more children succeed. Maine has the second-highest rated Charter School Law for its accountability and rigorous evaluation. The commission is doing its job.

We shouldn’t cut off their legs just to maintain the status quo. We’ve already lost too many smart kids.

Cheryl ClukeyAugusta

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