Virtual Schools Legislation Signed by Governor Patrick

On Thursday, January 3, 2013, Governor Patrick signed into law An Act establishing commonwealth virtual schools. Senator Brownsberger prioritized this legislation last session and worked collaboratively with his colleagues in the House and Senate to draft the bill signed by the Governor last week.

The statute allows for the creation of up to ten commonwealth virtual schools, subject to guidelines for approving and operating these schools.

As described in a press release issued by Governor Patrick’s office,

This bill establishes clear guidelines for the approval and operation of Commonwealth virtual schools, and directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (the Board) to draft comprehensive regulations governing the structure and oversight of virtual schools in Massachusetts. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will also develop and publish a listing of online courses aligned with current state academic standards that virtual schools may use. The bill also creates a Digital Learning Advisory Council, comprised of fifteen members appointed by the Board, to advise DESE on all matters relating to virtual schools.

Under this legislation, a single school district, two or more school districts, an education collaborative, an institution of higher education, a non-profit entity, two or more certified teachers, or parents are eligible to submit a proposal to develop a virtual school. Private and parochial schools and for-profit entities are not eligible to apply. Preference will be given to applications that take into consideration the following groups when approving proposals: students with physical challenges that make it difficult for them to attend school, expelled students, students who have dropped out of school, and pregnant/parenting students.

Senator Brownsberger has expressed his hope that this statute will help Massachusetts begin to develop new ways to meet the diverse educational needs of our children.

We invite you to share your comments in our online forum, The Future of Education, under the topic, Commonwealth Virtual Schools.

Anne Johnson Landry
Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

Published by Anne Johnson Landry

Anne works as Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor to Senator Brownsberger.