An article in the Akron Beacon Journal shows how virtual charters design advertising campaigns to appeal to students who are unhappy and feel bullied at school

“With profits on the line, private charter school companies are advertising on television, radio, billboards, handbills and even automated telephone messages to entice students away from public schools.

“And with words such as free, flexible, one-on-one and find your future — and taking opportunities to play on fear — the privately run, publicly funded schools are being quite successful.

“Enrollment in Ohio charter schools now stands at more than 120,000 in nearly 400 schools, with seven more schools expected to open next year. These quasi-public schools enroll less than 7 percent of Ohio’s students and receive $912 million in state tax dollars, about 11 percent of all state funds set aside for primary and secondary education.”

Some charters spend as much as $400 per student on advertising. Some public schools advertise to lure students back. All the money spent on advertising is taxpayer dollars that should be spent in classrooms.

Some of the ads feature students who talk about how they changed their life by enrolling in an online school, free from bullying. But the reporters interviewed a student who was not happy with her experience:

“Gretchen Carle, 19, a former student at Howland High School near Warren, also went to ECOT to escape bullying. Her experience with the online school, however, was different, she said in an interview.

“There wasn’t a lot of interaction with the teachers like they said there would be,” Carle said. “You were on your own with everything. It was very hard for me until I got a tutor.”

“Carle’s parents, not the school, paid for the private tutor. She never graduated and declined to talk about what she is doing currently.

“A video, “I Choose Life Skills,” posted in October, features a testimonial by a student identified as Tanya. In it, she says she can work at her own pace, with a highly qualified teacher or, if she chooses, from home “in my comfy PJs.”

“At that point, she is shown relaxing in a recliner, with a computer on her lap, while eating grapes. She also promotes the flexible class schedule that allows her to keep an outside job to take care of her family while earning a diploma.
The 30-second advertisement ends with the student saying, “I choose free tuition. I choose to take control of my life. I choose Life Skills high school. What do you choose?”