- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

N.C. school boards lining up against virtual charter school

Thirty-five school boards across the state have passed resolutions opposing a virtual charter school’s scheduled opening this fall.

Prompted by the N.C. School Boards Association, the resolutions pave the way for the schools boards to join litigation seeking to stop the North Carolina Virtual Academy from opening this fall.

“We’ve got all the way from Washington to Cherokee,” said Leanne Winner of the school board association. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to see a list of school boards).

Winner expects more of the state’s 115 school boards, all of which are members of the association, to pass resolutions as the boards meet.

A hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday in front of a Wake Superior Court judge to see if the school boards can join the N.C. State Board of Education in appealing an administrative judge’s decision to allow the virtual charter school to open this fall.

(The state already funds the separate North Carolina Virtual Public School [1], which offers online classes to students statewide to recover credits or take advanced classes, but isn’t a full-time school like the charter school.)

The proposed charter school would be overseen by a newly-formed non-profit N.C. Learns but its day-to-day management is handled by a for-profit education company,  K12, Inc [2]., which was trading on Wall Street at $20.63 [3] a share mid-day. The company gets most (more than 80 percent) of its revenue from running public virtual schools that have children take programmed classes from their home computers from the oversight of their parents.

The company was profiled in a New York Times investigation [4] last December that questioned whether the company, which gets more than 80 percent of its profit from taxpayers, puts profits above quality. Audits in other states have found the company overcharged states, and many of the virtual schools have seen students test below what their peers at traditional schools.

A Stanford University study [5] of Pennsylvania charter schools found that 100 percent of students at virtual charter schools in the state performed significantly worse than their peers.

In North Carolina, the company wants to have 2,750 students statewide in its first year, and as much as $18 million in public education funding sent diverted from the state’s 115 school districts.

An administrate law judge ruled on May 8 that the virtual charter school could open after the N.C. State Board of Education failed to act on a request for final approval the virtual school sent to the state board in February.

The statewide virtual school took an unusual strategy to get approval by being the first charter school in more than 12 years to seek approval at the local level before getting final authorization from the  N.C. State Board of Education,

The Cabarrus County School Board agreed to sponsor the charter school in exchange for four percent of the proposed charter school’s public funding (more than an estimated $700,000 in the first year). The application was then forwarded on to the state board, which had already reviewed a batch of charter school applications for the year and didn’t act on the N.C. Learns/K12, Inc. application. The state board wanted to develop a policy, and a funding formula, for virtual charter schools before approving any.

N.C. Administrative Law Judge Beecher Gray felt that the state board should have considered the application, and granted the charter school final approval as a result of the state board’s inaction.

Now, the state is appealing Gray’s ruling to a Wake Superior Court judge while the N.C. School Board Association, and the 35 individual school boards, hope to intervene in the case. The N.C. Justice Center, which N.C. Policy Watch is a project under, has filed an amicus brief in the case as well.

The following school boards have passed resolutions opposing the virtual charter school:

    1. Alamance
    2. Alleghany
    3. Anson
    4. Asheville City
    5. Brunswick
    6. Bertie
    7. Chapel Hill-Carrboro
    8. Chatham
    9. Cherokee
    10. Durham
    11. Elizabeth City-Pasquotank
    12. Franklin
    13. Gaston
    14. Granville
    15. Halifax
    16. Hertford
    17. Hickory
    18. Hoke
    19. Jackson
    20. Kannapolis City
    21. Macon
    22. Madison
    23. McDowell
    24. Montgomery
    25. Moore
    26. Mooresville
    27. Nash-Rocky Mount
    28. Perquimans
    29. Person
    30. Polk
    31. Rockingham
    32. Vance
    33. Warren
    34. Washington
    35. Wilson