Legislators in South Carolina must have been following an ALEC script when they authorized Virtual charter schools to enroll students and take money away from their underfunded public schoools. Or maybe they were paid off by lobbyists. There is certainly massive evidence, even from charter advocates, that virtual charters get terrible results. Yet no matter how much they fail, they are never closed or held accountable.

Consider this report in the “Post & Courier” in South Carolina:

“Online charter schools have grown exponentially across South Carolina and the nation — and questions about their effectiveness are growing, too.

“Today, the state has five virtual charter schools that together enroll roughly 10,000 students, up dramatically from about 2,100 students nine years ago when the state’s first cyber schools opened. A 2007 bipartisan bill fueled their growth by authorizing the state’s virtual schools program, and since then, taxpayers have footed the bill to the tune of more than $350 million.

“Despite this hefty investment, online charter schools have produced dismal results on almost all academic metrics, according to state and district data. On average, less than half of their students graduate on time. At one cyber school, nearly a third of students dropped out last school year. Data from the S.C Public Charter School District, which oversees these schools, shows just one in two virtual students enroll for a full year.

“Supporters of online education, including U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, praise virtual schools for their flexibility, innovation and reach. For struggling, home-bound or bullied students, advocates argue, these schools are lifelines.

“But critics contend state taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars lining the pockets of the for-profit companies that manage these schools at the expense of their flailing students.

“It concerns me,” said Don McLaurin, chairman of the S.C. Public Charter School District Board of Trustees. “Right now, for a variety of reasons, the virtuals are having performance problems, at least some of them. … We may have more than we need.”

The online charters have a graduation rate of 42%, compared to the state rate of 82.6% for public schools.

But, says DeVos, we need more failing virtual charters because parents choose them.