An education company backed by Wall Street investors is getting closer to opening for North Carolina students, a move that would allow taxpayer money to flow to the questionable education company without significant oversight or public input.
The Cabarrus County Board of Education voted Monday night, in a 5-2 vote, to partner up with K12, Inc .,(NYSE:LRN ) a Virginia-based company that’s become one of the nation’s largest providers of online education, according to Ronnye Boone, a spokesman for the school district.
Now that Cabarrus County has agreed to sponsor the charter school, the company will still need to get approval from the N.C. State Board of Education.
The company hopes to be open to all middle-school and high-school students in the state, and in its application to Cabarrus County estimates it will take in $18 million worth of public funding within a few years.
Taking the online classes would have no cost to parents or students, but the home counties of students would send each enrolled student’s share of state and local funding to the company.
In December, we reported on how the company was courting Cabarrus County as a way to wedge itself into the larger North Carolina market (Click here  to read our December report, “Questionable company targets NC for virtual charter school).
The company has had mixed results in several other states where it operates public charter schools. In Pennsyslvania, the company’s schools have shown lackluster results while in Colorado, the company was found to have charged the state for students who did not attend classes.
K12, Inc. has hired numerous lobbyists in North Carolina, including a former state legislator from Cabarrus County, and agreed to send the Western North Carolina school district a percentage of its revenue in exchange for sponsoring the virtual school.
It’s unclear if the online company would be open to students of all backgrounds and income levels. In its proposal to Cabarrus County, K12 staff indicated that low-income students without a computer of their own could go to a public library to take the online classes.
UPDATE: Click here  to read an account of what happened at the Cabarrus school board meeting from the Concord Independent Tribune.
N.C. State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (R-Concord) came to speak in favor of the virtual school while the school board attorney said that there’s a lot of hoops at the state-level the company will have to go through before opening up its virtual doors.
From the article:
Before the board discussed the application again on Monday, three guest speakers spoke on behalf of North Carolina Virtual Charter Academy.
One of the speakers was North Carolina Sen. Fletcher Hartsell who called the virtual charter academy an idea whose time has come with little risk and tremendous reward for the school system.
The school board began its discussion by hearing from its attorney, Mark Henriques, who told members that he had spoken to Laura Crumpler, assistant attorney general at North Carolina Department of Justice who handles education issues, and Katie Cornetto, staff attorney for the State Board of Education. Crumpler and Cornetto said the state is still working on new guidelines and felt it would be unlikely that this or any other virtual charter school would get approved at the state level before those guidelines are developed, Henriques said.