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A for-profit company’s bid to corner a share of N.C.’s public education market turned into reality earlier this month when an administrative law ruled the school could open.

In a May 8 ruling from the bench, Judge Beecher Gray, of the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, ruled in favor of N.C. Learns, a non-profit set up house the cyber school run and marketed by K12, Inc. and gave the school a go-ahead to open.

Late last week, Gray released his written order (click here to read it) :

Respondent [N.C. State Board of Education]’s failure to act or grant final approval to Petitioner [N.C. Learns/K12]’s Request for final approval of its application by the date required by statute (March 15, 2012) was made as a result of using an improper procedure or no procedure; was affected by errors of law or rule; and was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.

It’ll be the first virtual charter school in the state, and unless the state appeals, the school run by a Wall Street company will open up this fall. As many as 1,750 students in its first year, or $18 million in state education funding, could end up in the school’s coffers.

The company has been under fire in other states, where critics claim it puts profits over education. In New Jersey this week, a lawmaker introduced a bill that would temporarily halt any more cyber schools from opening.

In North Carolina, the for-profit-run school took a little-known about route to seek approval for a statewide charter school, and convinced the Cabarrus County school board to back their proposal.

(Helping was K12, Inc.’s hiring of a former Cabarrus County lawmaker to lobby the school board, and a current state Senator hired on to be the lawyer for N.C. Learns, the non-profit set up to get the charter from the state for the school). The company also said it would send four percent of the public education dollars back to Cabarrus County schools in exchange for backing the proposal.

Final approval for the charter school was supposed to be in the hands of the N.C. State Board of Education, but the state board ignored the application and let a March 15 deadline outlined in state statutes go by without any action.

The N.C. State Board of Education has 30 days to appeal Gray’s order to Superior courts in either Wake or Cabarrus counties.

 

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An education company backed by Wall Street investors is getting closer to opening for North Carolina students, a move that would allow taxpayer money to flow to the questionable education company without significant oversight or public input.

The Cabarrus County Board of Education voted Monday night, in a 5-2 vote, to partner up with K12, Inc.,(NYSE:LRN) a Virginia-based company that’s become one of the nation’s largest providers of online education, according to Ronnye Boone, a spokesman for the school district.

Now that Cabarrus County has agreed to sponsor the charter school, the company will still need to get approval from the N.C. State Board of Education.

 

The company hopes to be open to all middle-school and high-school students in the state, and in its application to Cabarrus County estimates it will take in $18 million worth of public funding within a few years.

Taking the online classes would have no cost to parents or students, but the home counties of students would send each enrolled student’s share of state and local funding to the company.

In December, we reported on how the company was courting Cabarrus County as a way to wedge itself into the larger North Carolina market (Click here to read our December report, “Questionable company targets NC for virtual charter school).

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