Five Question for Tillie Elvrum, President of the National Coalition for Public School Options (PSO)

By: Andrew Campanella

Last Upated: April 15, 2021


Read more about Olivia Wilkerson and Evan Wilkerson pursuing their dreams of becoming championship swimmers.

Andrew Campanella: There are a lot of students who are pursuing big things for their lives, and virtual schools make those pursuits possible. Why do you think these stories are too often left untold?

Tillie Elvrum: These stories are often untold simply because there is a lack of awareness about this educational option, and unfortunately, many do not consider virtual schools part of the traditional school system. But these students and their stories deserve just as much attention and acknowledgement as any other student. Their stories and school choice matter.

AC: Through my experience attending PSO’s Boot Camp, the theme of pursuing happiness is one that seems to particularly resonate with virtual school families. Why do you think that is?

TE: There is nothing more important to a parent than the happiness of their child – and a big component of that is their education. Virtual school families have often been left behind by their traditional brick and mortar school for a variety of reasons – mental and physical health, academics, or bullying – so parents actively seek an environment that will provide the happiness their children deserve.

AC: Another big factor for many virtual school families is a desire to transform unhappiness (because of bullying) into a more peaceful educational experience. Do you think this is a bigger motivator in school choice than we hear about in the media?

TE: Yes, when a child is unhappy their learning is impacted so it’s important that we equip parents with choices to ensure their child can learn and be happy. Parents shouldn’t be forced to choose between a good education and their child’s happiness. Education policy should seek to make sure both of these can be accomplished, and that is through increased choices for parents.

AC: For rural communities, online and virtual education seems to be one of the only options available to many families. Are you seeing a larger number of families from rural communities participate in virtual school programs?

TE: Studies have shown charter school ‘deserts’ exist, even in states with large numbers of charter schools. In many states online schools are the only educational option available outside of the traditional public schools. Every child deserves to have educational options, regardless of where they live.

AC: What is the biggest myth about online education that you think people need to understand?

TE: I think one of the biggest myths regarding online education is students are sitting in front of a computer all day independent of adult supervision or teachers. Full-time online students are accessing world-class curriculum online AND receiving instruction from certified and highly qualified teachers. Online teachers are working hard everyday to support our students on their academic journeys.

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