SKSD’s online program figures to be a cash cow

Maybe it’s just a function of how schools are funded in Washington state these days, but the South Kitsap School District’s plan to create an online curriculum for K-12 students feels more like a revenue-generating scheme than something South Kitsap students actually need.

Make no mistake, we think online schooling is a wonderful option. For many students — particularly the roughly one-third of whom don’t graduate on time from a traditional high school — the chance to earn an accredited diploma for free while working part-time or simply learning at their own pace, on their own schedule, is a godsend.

But Washington state already has four such programs — Insight School, headquartered in Bellevue; Internet Academy, in Federal Way; IQ Academy, in Vancouver; and Washington Virtual Academy, in DuPont — with more no doubt on the way.

And since by definition online students can do their work anywhere, why exactly does SKSD need its own program when local students could just as easily attend a school 300 miles away as one just down the street?

The answer, one assumes, is money.

The South Kitsap School District’s enrollment is expected to decline from 9,759 to 9,665 full-time equivalent students for the 2009-10 school year — continuing a longstanding downward trend.

Considering the district receives approximately $5,200 per student from the state, that adds up to a total of $488,800 less revenue for the district.

Online programs, however, while they do cost money to administer, don’t require a brick-and-mortar investment by the district, so padding the enrollment numbers with students who don’t need desks, bus service, hot lunches or other expensive items seems like a money-making proposition.

No wonder so many school districts around the state are scrambling to launch their own programs and compete for each other’s business.

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