Commentary

Application of predatory, for-profit virtual charter company goes before State Board of Ed

K12, Inc.It may be 10 days before Christmas, but there are still a lot of worrisome/controversial policy decisions taking shape in the halls of state government this week. As noted in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, a state legislative committee will meet this Friday to recommend rolling back some important consumer protections in the mortgage lending industry.

Now, comes word that a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow to interview two private, for-profit companies seeking to run virtual charter schools in North Carolina — at least one of which (K12, Inc.) has been shown on numerous occasions to be a predatory failure. As Bloomberg Business Week reported last month:

“K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.

Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.”

Of course, K12, Inc. isn’t an unknown to the State Board of Ed. To its credit, the Board has been holding the troubled company and its whole scam at bay for years. Unfortunately, K12, Inc. lobbyists prevailed upon the privatizers at the General Assembly to slip a provision into the state budget bill this past summer which directs the Board to approve two virtual charters as part of a “pilot” program. Now, low and behold, there are only two applicants for those slots.

Whether this means that the State Board will roll over and approve K-12, Inc. or show some backbone and tell the company and its buddies in the legislature to stuff it remains to be seen. Let’s hope for the latter eventuality.

Lest you have any doubts about the appropriateness of such a response,read this letter from North Carolina Association of Educators President, Rodney Ellis as well as this letter of caution from a group of teachers who work for the largest school in the country managed by K12, Inc. detailing numerous failures by the company.

Finally, in a helpful development, the State Board says it will livestream the interviews. Here is the info on how to tune in:

A special committee appointed by the State Board of Education will meet Wednesday, Dec. 17, to interview the two virtual charter school applicants: NC Virtual Academy and NC Connections Academy. The meeting, which begins at 10:25 a.m., will be held in the 7th Floor Board Room, Education Building, 301 N. Wilmington Street, Raleigh.

Committee members will interview representatives of NC Virtual Academy at 10:30 a.m. Following a break at 11:40 a.m., members will interview representatives of NC Connections Academy at 11:45 a.m. The meeting adjourns at 12:45 p.m.

The meeting will be audio streamed for those who cannot attend. To listen, please visit the State Board of Education’s website at http://stateboard.ncpublicschools.gov and click on the Live Audio Stream. Applications for these two virtual charters can be viewed online at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/charterschools/applications/. Questions regarding this meeting may be directed to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Communications division at 919.807.3450.

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