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Governor, lawmakers disagree on how much cyber schools should be funded

kids at computers
U.S. Department of Education
Creative Commons

Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed state budget includes a 20% cut to per pupil spending for virtual charter schools, but lawmakers in both the state House and Senate want to continue funding online schools at the same rate as traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

Michael Griffith is a school finance expert with the Education Commission on the States, a non-profit, non-partisan organization. He says there’s not a lot of research on how much it costs to provide an online only education, but he says what research there is shows that it costs less to run virtual charter schools "because they don’t have the transportation cost and the building maintenance cost." But he says there "isn't a real agreement right now" about what that lower cost is, whether it's five percent lower or 30% lower or somewhere in between. 

Snyder’s proposed 20% cut would save around $16 million, which would then be funneled into costs associated with high school curriculum. There are currently 13 virtual online charters operating in Michigan.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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