Company seeks virtual charter school from NC court

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 02:44 PM

A North Carolina appeals court hears arguments Wednesday on whether a for-profit company should get taxpayer money to operate a virtual charter school that offers online-only classes to public school students.

The state Court of Appeals was to hear a bid by Virginia-based K12 Inc. to offer classes to students whose parents opt out of existing public school classrooms. The company backed a North Carolina non-profit called N.C. Learns that sought a charter giving it special permission to operate outside many normal rules.

K12 is the nation's largest online educator and has managed online schools in 29 states with mixed academic success. Florida education officials launched a probe into whether K12 violated state law by using uncertified teachers and then tried to cover it up.

The State Board of Education decided in 2011 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.

N.C. Learns then tried to set up a charter school with a statewide reach in a deal with the Cabarrus County Board of Education. The company agreed to pay 4 percent of its revenue to the school system in Cabarrus, located north of Charlotte.

"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.

The state 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.