Policymakers Should Encourage, not Discourage Digital Learning and For-Profit Involvement in Education

(Albuquerque) Children throughout New Mexico are heading back to school. And, with the opening of the state’s second totally virtual school, New Mexico Connections Academy, the exact nature of that school is changing more rapidly than ever.

And, according to a new report from the Rio Grande Foundation, “New Mexico Policymakers Should Expand, Not Limit Online/For Profit Education,” this is an encouraging development. Furthermore, according to the report, policymakers, particularly the Legislature, encourage rather than discouraging the trend towards “virtual” learning with involvement of for-profit businesses.

According to Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, “the report details the many benefits of virtual learning and the involvement of for-profits, including:”

• Increased efficiency and innovation;
• Ability to leverage capital markets and additional resources to benefit education;
• New educational models including “blended” and “virtual” models;
• Ability to leverage truly excellent teachers across geographical barriers and other classroom limitations.

In addition to outlining the benefits of digital learning and for-profits, the report contains a report card outlining how New Mexico’s policies inhibit or promote digital learning. Specific ideas are provided for improving the public policy environment with an eye towards implementing many aspects of Utah which has the best laws in the nation when it comes to digital learning. New Mexico is middle-of the-pack.

Concluded Gessing, “New Mexico has two virtual charter schools and Albuquerque Public Schools has begun to embrace digital learning with pledges to increase and improve upon digital options available to students in the district. Nonetheless, policymakers, especially in the Legislature, have spent their time attacking rather than encouraging innovation in education. For the sake of our children, it is time for that to change”