Your editorial on Aug. 20 (“Virtual charter schools didn’t live up to the hype”) starts with a fallacy: No one ever said charter schools were going to “fix” what was wrong with public education. No one ever sold school choice as an elixir that would magically cure some of the systemic issues in our public school system.

School choice is about giving students and families more options. For some, traditional public school is the perfect educational option. For others, like my daughter, virtual education is the best choice. Remember, charter schools are held to the ultimate accountability standard: parents must actively choose to transfer into one.

In our case, my daughter is a gifted and dedicated athlete. She currently competes on the national Youth Olympics Judo team and is hopeful to one day be an Olympian.

Without Maine Virtual Academy, she simply would not be able to take part in this incredibly enriching activity and keep up with her schooling. For others, choice is important for more dire reasons. Bullying, health issues, social anxiety and other similar issues can make certain school options untenable. For many of those students, a virtual school is a  literal life saver.

Your editorial takes some extremely unfair shots at the Maine Virtual Academy. Despite being only a few years old, the Maine Virtual Academy is making great strides in improved graduation rates and increasing student attendance. In addition, you dismiss the 13% who found bullying so pervasive and so affecting at traditional school that they felt more comfortable leaving that school entirely.

For these kids they can’t wait for traditional public schools to get their act together. They need safety and security now to continue learning and growing.

I believe that more diversity in choice is almost always a good thing. More choice means more opportunity for students and families. I believe that the ultimate stakeholder in a child’s education is a child and his or her parents, and therefore they should be empowered to make a choice from a diverse set of options.

That’s not radical — that’s common sense.

 

Kate Versluis is a resident of Sabattus.


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