Oregon Schools Must Go Digital Now to Save Money, Energy, and the Planet

The energy crisis that now grips America is serious. There is no end in sight to the increases in costs for electric power, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel fuel. Something must be done NOW or we will find ourselves spending more to transport and house students than we do to educate them.

The solution is clean and simple and can be implemented immediately. Enroll all of Oregon’s students in the Connections Academy for the 2008 — 2009 school year and beyond.

The Connections Academy, which opened in 2005 and is approved by the state, offers a complete, tested, quality education on line. Students never need to leave their homes to complete their schoolwork. Everything the students need is supplied – computers and printers, textbooks, even a subsidy for Internet access. And the students at Connections learn and learn quite well. Their test scores were higher in reading last year than the state average. In math and writing their scores roughly matched the statewide performance of students attending regular schools.

What’s not to like? No school buses, no school bus drivers, no school buildings, no classrooms to heat and cool, no cafeterias to manage, no grounds to maintain, no custodians to pay, fewer teachers to pay, and no new construction.

The state currently pays Connections $6,500 per student. Oregon spends $8,500 per student now and has approximately 534,000 students statewide in K-12. You do the math — OK, I’ll do it — and we would realize immediate savings of $1,068,000,000 per year! One billion, sixty-eight million dollars saved simply for implementing statewide what is now wildly successful for some 1800 lucky students.

Additionally, we would be able to lead the nation in greenhouse gas reduction by parking our fleet of thousands upon thousands of school buses. We could also return that excess money to the taxpayers to help them cope with the energy crisis.

I believe this plan is what is called a win-win.