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Virtual charter schools will face restrictions if they want to open up in North Carolina.

The N.C. State Board of Education voted today to adopt a policy that would require the online-based schools to adhere to a significantly lower funding formula ($3504 per student) than brick-and-mortar charter schools, maintain high graduation rates and low withdrawal rates of students. Schools will also need to keep a ratio of one teacher for every 50 students and keep graduation rates within 10 percent of the state average (80 percent), and can’t have withdrawal rates higher than 15 percent in two out of three years.

Committee leaders for the legislature’s education committee took issue late last year with the state board making policies about virtual charter schools, saying that the board didn’t have the authority to tinker with funding formulas or single out online-based schools. Bill Harrison, the chairman of the N.C. Board of Education who will faces a likely replacement from new Gov. Pat McCrory, disagreed. (Read our story about that tiff here.)

The legislature, of course, could undo the state board’s decision if they choose.

The state currently has no virtual charter schools, though the state does operate the N.C. Virtual Public School, wich allows high-school students (and some middle-school students) to take individual classes as part of their regular studies.

Virtual charter schools have shown a keen interest in North Carolina. Two national online learning companies have sent letters of intent to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction that they want to open up their doors in 2014: Connections Academy, owned by the for-profit education company Pearson and N.C. Virtual Academy, to be run by the for-profit K12, Inc.

K12, Inc., through a non-profit organization called N.C. Learns set up by K12, tried to open up in the state last year, and had their application ignored by the N.C. State Board of Education, which authorizes charter schools in the state. The matter is now tied up in the appellate courts, with N.C. Learns appealing a lower judge’s ruling affirming the state board’s denial. State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a prominent Republican legislator, was hired on as N.C. Learn’s attorney for the case and K12 has hired another former lawmaker, Jeff Barnhart, as a lobbyist, according to the N.C. Secretary of State’s office.

Pearson has lobbyists of its own – four were hired from Capstrat, the Raleigh-based lobbying firm.

Here’s the new policy adopted by the N.C. State Board of Education:

 

Policy for N.C. virtual charter schools by ncpolicywatch

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A Florida school district refused an application for a virtual charter school contracted with K12, Inc., the for-profit online education company that’s come under fire for management and education quality issues.

From the Ocala Star-Banner:

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to deny the application.

“I’m concerned to go with a contract in the light of the investigation,” said School Board Chairwoman Judi Zanetti.

School Board members Ron Crawford and Angela Boynton agreed they could not support the virtual school because of the state investigation.

Superintendent of Schools Jim Yancey’s urged the board to deny the charter school because board members are not local and he believes K12 is only interested in turning a profit.

If the new school had been approved in Marion County, it would have started as a K-8 school in 2013-14 and would have expanded to all grade levels by 2018-19. At the school’s peak, the enrollment was projected to reach 296 students.

The company is currently under investigation in Florida, a leading state in the push for online education via for-profit companies,  for covering up its use of non-certified teachers for programs that required teachers certified to teach in Florida.

The company is seeking a spot in the North Carolina education market, and is appealing a Wake superior court judge’s decision in an attempt to open up a statewide online school, that would allow students from kindergarten through 12th grade to take classes over their home computers.

 

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Write, teacher and activist Paul Buchheit makes three clear, concise and compelling arguments about the state of American public education this morning at Common Dreams:

  1. We should assess teachers better before we hire them. 
  2. Budget cuts are the last thing we ought to be imposing on schools.
  3. Charter schools are an imaginary solution.

You can read the entire piece by clicking here.

 

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K12, Inc., the Virginia-based company in the midst of a court battle to open up a virtual charter school in North Carolina, is facing more scrutiny in Florida, this time over caseloads of up to 275 students per teacher.

The high caseloads are for high school grades and were revealed in a confidential K12, Inc. memorandum obtained by Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida, two non-profit news agencies.

The caseloads vary based on how much compensation K12, Inc. gets per student, with one higher ratio set for $3000 per student and another for districts that give K12 $4,000 per student.

But those caseload range from 275-to-1, to 225-to-1, much higher than the 150-to-1 ratio that the state-run Florida Virtual School maintains.

From the StateImpact article: Read More

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A for-profit virtual school company fighting to open a public school in North Carolina isaccused of violating state law in Florida by having teachers falsify attendance records.

K12, Inc., a Virginia-based company that runs online-based public schools in 29 states, is under investigation by the Florida education department after several K12 teachers refused to sign class rosters with students the teachers had never taught.

From the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which reported on the Florida investigation Tuesday:

The Florida Department of Education has launched an investigation of K12, the nation’s largest online educator, over allegations the company uses uncertified teachers and has asked employees to help cover up the practice.

In one case, a K12 manager instructed a certified teacher to sign a class roster of more than 100 students. She only recognized seven names on that list.

“I cannot sign off on students who are not my actual students,” K12 teacher Amy Capelle wrote to her supervisor. “It is not ethical to submit records to the district that are inaccurate.” Read More