K12 Inc Awaits Court Decision on North Carolina Online Charter School

Virginia-based K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education provider managing online schools in 29 states, is seeking a North Carolina court’s decision for a proposed virtual charter school that will offer online-only classes to public school students, reports The Associated Press.

On August 14, 2013, the state Court of Appeals in North Carolina heard arguments on whether a for-profit company should get taxpayer money to operate a virtual charter school. The company plans to offer classes to students whose parents opt out of existing public school classrooms.

“This would be the first time that the approval, monitoring, and oversight of a charter school would be vested solely in a single, politically-elected, local school board, including the oversight of all curriculum, fiscal matters, attendance, federal programs, and compliance with all laws and regulations,” assistant state attorney general Laura Crumpler wrote in a court filing.

But a state judge last year blocked the plan from advancing without approval of the State Board of Education. The online school anticipated enrolling about 1,800 students and could have collected about $18.5 million in state and local funds, Wake County Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones ruled last year.

K12 backed the non-profit N.C. Learns, which sought a charter giving it special permission to operate outside many normal rules. In 2011, the State Board of Education decided that it would not approve any virtual charter schools for the next school year, arguing the General Assembly had lifted a statewide limit on the number of charter schools but did not address what to do about online versions.

In a deal with the Cabarrus County Board of Education, N.C. Learns tried to set up a charter school with a statewide reach. The company agreed to pay 4% of its revenue to the school system in Cabarrus, located north of Charlotte. But last year, a state judge blocked the plan from advancing without approval of the State Board of Education.

North Carolina already offers some online classes through the N.C. Virtual Public School. The proposed online charter school would be the first of its kind in North Carolina.

Other states are embracing virtual education more easily. The Massachusetts Virtual School received final approval for expansion from the state education board via a 9-1 vote, Chris Shores of The Recorder reports. The school will be based on Greenfield and will enroll up to 750 students who will attend classes over the internet.

The school will accept enrollment of students from all over the state and cover grades K through 12. Two-hundred fifty of the school’s 750 projected enrollment is anticipated to be from grades 9-12.

The vote came after 6 months of uncertainty for the school, which has enrolled only primary school students for three years.

The state board approval also means that the state will take an increased role in the school’s oversight. Starting next week, the school will also pass from under the control of Greenfield School Committee and the primary responsibility for it will now rest in a five-member board of trustees.