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Virtual charter hearing pushed to late June

The N.C. State Board of Education’s attempt to block a virtual charter school from opening was pushed to the end of the month.

A hearing on the objections to virtual public school run by the for-profit company K12, Inc. will now be heard the week of June 25, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said in court today.

A motion to stay an administrative law judge’s May 8 order granting approval to the statewide cyber school had been scheduled for today in Wake Superior Court. Both the state and N.C. Learns, the non-profit organization behind the school, agreed to delay any court decisions about whether the virtual school should open this fall to the June 25 hearing.

The N.C. School Board Association and at least 35 of its member school boards also are objecting to the virtual school opening, and want to intervene in the case.

In addition, attorneys for the N.C. Justice Center filed an amicus brief in the matter, siding with the N.C. State Board of Education.

[N.C. Policy Watch is a news and commentary website housed under the N.C. Justice Center, a non-profit advocacy organization that works on issues that affect low-income residents. ]

The N.C. Virtual Academy hopes to recruit 2,750 students statewide in its first year and take in $18 million in federal, state and local education dollars. The school would be run by the for-profit K12, and allow students to take a full course-load of classes from their home computers while interacting with teachers online.

Over the last year, critical news articles about K12, Inc. from national newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post have questioned the quality of education the company offers, pointing out a Colorado audit that found taxpayers paid $800,000 to much to the company and a Pennsylvania school where virtual students performed significantly worse than their public school peers. A class-action investor lawsuit is also pending against the company, accusing company leaders of making misleading statements about the performance of schools run by the company.

K12, Inc. representatives have refuted those findings, and pointed to the popularity of the virtual school in 29 states that have public online schools or charter schools run by the company.

N.C. Learns and K12, Inc. took a rarely-used route to gain approval in North Carolina. Instead of applying directly to the Office of Charter Schools in the state education department, as most charter schools do, it sought preliminary approval from the Cabarrus County School Board in January and then forwarded its application for final approval by the state education board.

But the state board didn’t act on the virtual school’s application, and N.C. Administrative Law Judge Beecher Gray later ruled in May it should have at least considered the applications. Gray then gave the school permission to open for this upcoming school year.

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