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Tuesday, January 31st, 2006 -- 9:02 AM

Until now, the state's ?open enrollment? policy has led to students jumping between mostly neighboring school districts, but on-line schools are now aggressively seeking students.

On this ? and many other radio stations -- across the state, you may hear spots for schools such as the IQ Academies at Wisconsin, a "virtual" school chartered through the Waukesha school district.

"Those schools are doing it as a money-raiser only," states Granton superintendent Jerry Nelson.

Each open-enrolled student in a virtual school brings about $6,000 in state-aid money to the ?host? school district. In the case of IQ Acedemies at Wisconsin, the money goes to Waukesha Public Schools.

"They contract out with another company for curriculum. Basically, (the school district) just manages the numbers," Nelson says. "It's a money-raiser for them by getting state aid from other schools."

Virtual schools blur the line between home-schooled and public education students. While students typically learn at home, DPI recognizes them as public students. And while virtual schools chartered through the state must have teachers, the class sizes don?t compare to a traditional school.

According to a 2004 USA Today article, The Wisconsin Virtual Academy, chartered through the Northern Ozaukee School District, had only nine teachers for 420 students in 2004.

Nelson says opponents of the current DPI stance on virtual schools aren?t guilty of sour grapes ? in fact, Granton offers courses on-line ? they just want a level playing field.

"That's fine. If that's the direction we want to go in the state. But let's have them have the same requirements that the other schools have."

"Why shouldn't they be required to abide by the same rules and regulations?"

It?s estimated there are around 2,000 public school students enrolled in on-line schools this year, but that number is expected to jump in the coming year.

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