Colorado to audit online K-12 schools

The Legislative Audit Committee’s going online.

The committee approved a request yesterday by Seante President Brandon Shaffer of Longmont to perform an emergency audit of online public schools operating in Colorado.

Shaffer requested the audit after reviewing state reports that raise concerns about the efficacy of some of the online program.

“When I was in the Navy, I was taught you get what you inspect, not what you expect,” Shaffer said. “I’ve requested this audit to ensure we’re getting the best education for our children and the most effective use of taxpayer dollars.”

In his letter to the members of the Legislative Audit Committee, President Shaffer said:

“I recognize there are very legitimate needs that can be filled by online programs, such as course offerings being made available in rural parts of the state, and degree programs offered to students who help support their families or are otherwise unable to attend a traditional school. In an economic climate where the State of Colorado is forced to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from its education budgets, we must ensure that every dollar of tax-payer money is spent efficiently and effectively.”

Shaffer wants the following questions answered by the audit:

● What is the actual cost of running a K-12 online educational program? Are we funding online schools at an appropriate level, or should funding be increased/decreased?

● Which programs are “for profit”? How do their graduation rates and test scores compare with other online programs? What is the average profit margin for these programs?

● What is the average dropout rate? How does this compare with other educational programs and school systems in the state?

● What are the average CSAP scores for students attending online schools? How do these scores compare with other educational programs and school systems in the state?

● What happens to the average student who drops out from an online program? Do they drop out of school, or do they return to a traditional school setting? What happens to the funding allocated for these students if they drop out of the online program? Approximately how much money falls into this category?

● Who/What mechanism is in place for oversight of online schools? Are current oversight mechanisms adequate? Are there recommended practices for strengthening current oversight and accountability?

● How do Colorado’s online school programs compare to those of other states? What are key features that make other online school programs successful/unsuccessful?

● Are there online schools currently operating in Colorado that should be decertified based on Colorado Department of Education rules and standards?