We have known for a long while that the worst scandals in the charter sector are intertwined with online learning and cyber charters. Consider the bankruptcy last year of ECOT (the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) in Ohio, whose owner collected $1 billion from the state over nearly 20 years, but declared bankruptcy rather than pay the state $60 million for inflated enrollments.

Then there is the infamous A-1 scandal in California, where the owners and several cooperating school districts were indicted in San Diego nearly a year ago for the theft of $50 million from the state, a scheme that involved phantom students.

Yet here we are in the midst of a pandemic and most schools have been shutdown to protect students and staff from exposure to the coronavirus. Almost overnight, millions of students were required to continue learning by going online. The platforms are different, but tens of millions of students are engaged in distance learning.

Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute sees this asa fortuitous moment, an opportunity to revolutionize education. She calls it “A Revolution in Education, Born of a Necessity.”

She says, seize the moment.

She writes:

Said more simply: Those working “in the arena” to run great schools and support great teachers are charging full steam ahead to make the most of this period of remote learning. Those who have been quick to dismiss distance learning as “ineffective” are looking in the rearview mirror and imagining a world where past must be prologue, rather than embracing the innovation that this moment may well have sparked.

You will not be surprised to learn that I disagree. From what I see and read and hear, I believe that parents want to get back to their own work. They don’t want their children home all the time, learning at a screen. Those who want to home school are already doing it. More important, I think that students must miss their friends, their teachers, their social life, their teams and activities. Home Alone is a drag.

And then there is the inconvenient CREDO study of 2015, which found that students in virtual charter schools fell behind their peers in brick-and-mortar public schools. In a school year of 180 days, the online students lost 44 days in reading and 180 days in math.

If you want our whole society to go backwards, distance learning and cyber schooling will do it.