Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online schools have been gaining in popularity. Even though most brick-and-mortar schools resumed classes several years ago, the shift in education is still tremendous.
The benefits of online schools for students of all ages were demonstrated. And this led to many states passing legislation to make funding available for families wanting to remain in online schools.
For example, Kentucky and Missouri recently passed laws expanding access to charter schools.
Additionally, the following states have given families access to Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), scholarship programs, or other initiatives related to school choice, which has led to a massive transition in how education is viewed. ESAs are particularly helpful since they can cover tuition and enrollment costs at a private or charter school.
- Arizona: Empowerment Scholarships are available to all K-12 students in the state. This is the most expansive school choice program in the country.
- Georgia: Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarship program is available to many kids in the state.
- Illinois: This state has scholarship tax credits available.
- Indiana: The Choice Scholarship program is available to low-income students. Tax credits are also available.
- Iowa: This state provides tax credit scholarships.
- Kansas: Kansas has an open enrollment law allowing any child to attend any public school. Districts must accept out-of-district students if there are available seats.
- Louisiana: This state has created ESAs for children with learning disabilities.
- Maryland: Maryland provides vouchers for low-income students.
- Mississippi: This state provides ESAs to students with an IEP and has a voucher program.
- Montana: Montana has scholarship tax credits available.
- Nevada: Nevada has scholarship tax credits available.
- New Hampshire: This state has a voucher program and scholarship tax credits.
- Ohio: Ohio’s Afterschool Child Enrichment Program allows families to apply for $500 for each of their K-12 students to help pay for educational services.
- Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Empowerment Account Program allows student sot use funds to pay for many education services, including private school tuition.
- Pennsylvania: Lifeline Scholarships are available to students in underperforming school districts.
- Rhode Island: This state has scholarship tax credits available.
- South Carolina: This state has scholarship tax credits available.
- South Dakota: This state passed a school choice expansion bill, which expands the eligibility and funding for the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program.
- Tennessee: This state created a scholarship program for children from low-income families.
- Utah: Utah has expanded the state’s special needs ESA to include siblings of children with special needs.
- Virginia: This state provides school choice funding.
- West Virginia: This state has allowed learning pods to operate, allowing a parent to start and run learning pods.
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin has multiple student voucher options.
Many other states are also considering legislation that will fund individual students rather than education systems. This flexibility lets families identify the right learning structure for their children. Currently, many states do provide any funding, vouchers, or scholarships, including:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
With so many states making education more flexible and allowing K-12 online education funding, it’s no surprise that many parents are considering whether remote learning is a better option for their children. And this is especially true given the rise of many excellent online public schools catering to students from elementary school all through college. There are even many career prep options.
Pros and Cons
Therefore, the pros and cons of online public schools or private school programs are worth considering. The benefits and drawbacks of this learning model include the following:
Many students learn new tech and platforms quickly. And with robust internet access, you can use any platform from any location. This benefit is great for families that move a lot since the student can form long-lasting academic relationships with the educators at their online academy.
The downside of relying on technology is that the learner can experience technological challenges. And when programs, software, or internet connectivity fails, it can disrupt their learning, especially when they cannot access their courses. However, in many instances, these challenges are resolved quickly, allowing the student to return to their work with minimal disruption.
Online learning is often the primary reason a family may select online schooling — flexibility in curriculum and time. Students often do not need to adhere to a strict schedule of 9 AM to 3 PM on weekdays, making it easier for families to achieve a work-life balance. In addition, courses may be tailored to meet the unique learning needs of students.
The downside to this flexibility is that the family must be committed to helping the student stay on-task and keep up with assignments. Online learners must do this independently to catch up quickly with their peers. Additionally, students may need to view specific lectures or classes at a set time in some instances, which can minimize the amount of true flexibility offered.
One of the reasons many parents hesitate when discussing online schooling is the need for more social interactions. However, these schools and academies often provide many opportunities for students to interact using various forms of communication, from email to live video supported by collaboration tools.
Unfortunately, even though many online schools have a lot of interaction, more is needed to meet the social needs of many children, especially those still in elementary or middle school. These years are formative and social interactions are vital. However, an online school can still be a positive change, but parents may want to explore additional opportunities for greater social interaction, such as team sports or clubs.
We are now in the middle of a dramatic shift in education, in which parents in many states have greater freedom related to school choice. Understanding these benefits and drawbacks can be helpful when determining the right option for your child.