Virtual charter school appeals court order, still wants to open in N.C.

N.C. Learns, the group behind a proposal for a virtual charter school, plans on appealing a Wake Superior Court judge’s order that put the school’s plans on indefinite hold.

The school would have been run by K12, Inc., a Wall Street-traded educational company that gets most of its revenue from public dollars for online-only schools it runs in more than two dozen state around the country.

Wake Judge Abraham Jones ruled on June 29 that the state board didn’t have to review an application  submitted by the online-only school, and overturned an administrative judge’s decision to grant the school permission to open.  (Click here to read a past story about the case.)

N.C. Learns, a non-profit whose start-up costs are being paid for by K12, Inc., is appealing Jones’ order to the N.C. Court Of Appeals, according to a notice of appeal filed in the Wake County Courthouse July 27.

The N.C. School Board Association and the N.C. Justice Center joined the state board in opposing the virtual charter school, arguing that school districts around the state would have their funds depleted for an online-only school with questionable performance in other states. (N.C. Policy Watch is a project housed under the N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty statewide advocacy group.)

The appeal is also seeking to overturn Jones’ decision to allow the school board association from intervening in the case, according to the notice written by state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, who was hired to serve as the attorney for the proposed virtual school.

The company hoped to set up shop in North Carolina after the state, in 2011, lifted its long-standing cap on charter schools. But the company, which has a reputation for aggressively pursuing business in other states, took a different route than most charter schools and attempted to force the N.C. State Board of Education to review its application outside the timeline that had been set out for charter schools in the state. It got initial approval by the Cabarrus County School Board, which agreed to sponsor the virtual school that would draw from students around the state in exchange for a kickback of the school’s overall public funding.

The State Board is the state agency tasked with overseeing and running the state’s public school system, including the growing number of charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free charter schools run outside the confines of traditional public school systems by non-profit board.

In the case of K12, Inc., N.C. Learns would by the non-profit organization that has the direct dealings with the state, while contracting fully with K12.

A report that came out earlier this month by the National Education Policy Center, an education research group that’s largely been critical of the privatization of education, found students K12, Inc.-run virtual schools perform worse than their public school peers. Less than a third of K12, Inc. schools meat the Adequate Yearly Progress goals outlined by the federal education department. National, 50 percent of all public schools meet that threshold.

K12’s stock dropped after the report’s release and is now trading at $18.06 a share, a dollar up from its lowest price in the past year.  The company is also facing an investor law suit alleging that top officers at the company weren’t forthcoming about how students at the schools were performing.

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