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Virtual charter school off of legislative radar … for the moment

K12, Inc. bumped into another stumbling block in its attempt to break into North Carolina’s public education market, with a state legislator saying he will forgo legislation to put an online charter school’s application back in front of the State Board of Education.

State Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Greensboro, said he will pull language in a proposed committee substitute for House Bill 273 that references a virtual charter school application put forth by N.C. Learns, a non-profit organization that hoped to open up a charter school run by K12, Inc..

K12, Inc. is a Virginia-based company that runs online schools in 32 states, and attributes nearly 85 percent of its revenue to public dollars. Online, or virtual schools, allow students to take their classes through their home computers, instead of attending school through traditional classrooms. K12a

The K12, Inc.-focused language was expected to be introduced at today’s House Education Committee.

At last week’s meeting, a proposed committee substitute that would have granted an automatic opening to the school was passed out before the committee meeting. Hardister took the issue off the day’s agenda after lobbyists for public education and a charter school group raised concerns with him about the proposed school.

“There are some questions that we need to answer about virtual charter schools before we move forward,” Hardister wrote in an email Monday about holding off on K12 legislation.

Among Hardister’s questions are whether state laws need to specifically state virtual charter schools can operate and what type of funding the schools should get, given that they don’t have the same type of overheard that schools with physical locations have.

“Clearly, virtual charter schools will not require the same level of funding as brick-and-mortar charter schools,” Hardister said.

Questions have been raised by critics about whether the company is more focused on finding profits for its Wall Street investors than delivering a quality education to schoolchildren. (The New York Times ran this lengthy piece in December 2011 about the issue.)

The company has had mixed results in other states, including Tennessee where the school performed well below the state average and in Colorado where graduation rates were in the teens. (North Carolina’s four-year graduation rate, to offer some comparison, is at 80 percent.)

 

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Virtual charter school off of legislative radar … for the moment