Online education in North Carolina might soon become a reality for students as young as five, the News Observer reports. A State Board of Education vote is imminent on a measure that would allow members to consider applications for virtual academies to operate charter schools in the state and to receive funding to do it.
Board members will be looking at two issues in weighing the virtual charter application. One would be to allow online charters to operate at all, and the other would be permitting schools to enroll students from all over the state, not just from one particular district. District heads in the state have traditionally opposed such open enrollment policies on the grounds that they strip funding from local schools.
The move to consider virtual charters for approval alongside applications for brick-and-mortar schools comes after months of controversy over a lawsuit brought by N.C. Learns, a nonprofit that wants to bring to the state an online school managed by K12, the nation’s biggest for-profit selling online education. The charter proposed to enroll as many as 6,526 students from kindergarten through high school statewide
NC Learns’ initial application was turned down by the state board last year, and their appeal was turned down by a Superior Court Judge who heeded the arguments made by a number of NC districts urging him to rule against the non-profit.
Although the state board is maintaining that they’re not ready to issue a final decision on online schools quite yet, the Thursday vote would at least pave the way for such applications to be considered in the future.
Several of the reservations from board members deal specifically with K12 Inc. According to chairman Bill Harrison, there are concerns about the quality of K12-operated schools after a number of states launched an investigation into the company last year.
Harrison said he supports virtual schools, but has concerns about transparency with online companies. The state runs an online school, the N.C. Virtual Public School, that allows high school students to take courses, but it is not open to elementary school students. Courses open to middle school students are limited. The state board still has concerns about the funding of online charters that it did not address. Virtual charters will receive money according to the same formula that funds all charter schools, even though the virtual schools don’t have to open and maintain buildings. Charter schools receive public money for students, but not for buildings.