School leaders see cyber schools as threat to state funding

State lawmakers are making it easier for Michigan students to enroll in cyber school.

One of Michiganâ??s newest laws lifts the cap on how many kids attend school online.

â??Well all it is really doing isâ?¦the law just takes off an arbitrary cap established by Lansing. Previously, we were capping the number of kids that could be enrolled at 2,000. Now it's 30,000,â?? said State Senator Patrick Colbeck, R - 7th District.

Educators tell 7&4 News 30,000 kids equals approximately 2% of Michiganâ??s student population.

Cyber schools are simply online charter schools governed by independent boards, charter school and public school boards.

Supports call cyber schools "innovative educational opportunities,â?? but some local school leaders see them as a threat.

â??There are school districts that are out there that are trying to innovate and trying to move would be nice to know that the state supports schools that are trying the innovations that our governor and legislators are asking for instead of having more competition thrown at us,â?? said Mike Murray, Suttons Bay Schools Superintendent.

Suttons Bay currently has 124 students enrolled in its online program.

Those students are counted in the districtâ??s per-pupil funding.

Murray worries he will lose them to competing independent cyber schools and in turn lose funding.

Lawmakers downplay his concern.

â??If somebody is not providing services then they shouldn't get compensated for that service, so a lot of this is, if you don't have the head count youâ??re not teaching the students, then why should you get compensated for it?â?? Colbeck said.

Despite Colbeckâ??s stance, Suttons Bay Schools is monitoring the effect this law will have.

Superintendent Murray has already addressed the community, talking about their budget struggles this year and how cyber schools could effect their bottom line for the 2012-2013 school year.

â??The big question that people have in their minds is, ok you got out of the hole this year, does that mean you are still going to be in trouble next year? Or is there a new plan? And since so much of our plan is dependent on enrolling students online, this new legislation is going to impact that so I have to explain to the community how the competition created by this bill will impact us,â?? said Murray.