UPDATE: The Pitt County Board of Education unanimously agreed, without discussion, to join in litigation with other North Carolina school boards against NC Learns.
by Lisa Wilbourne
Since North Carolina does not allow for-profit companies to operate charter schools (see item b here), NC Learns is a non-profit seeking to operate the virtual charter school that will contract with the for-profit company K12, Inc, for all services.
For 3 percent of the state and local funds the charter school would receive, Cabarrus County agreed to partner with K12.
If approved by the State Board of Education, students from all of North Carolina could enroll in the “North Carolina Virtual Academy.” Despite the academy’s lower operational costs, it would, if approved, be entitled to receive the same per-student public funding as its brick-and-mortar counterparts. (Read more on this here.)
According to North Carolina Virtual Academy’s charter application, the school expects 2012 enrollment at 2,750 students, with growth to 6,526 in 10 years. Projected first-year enrollment would bring over $18,500,000 of state and local money to the school; 10 year projections bring the school nearly $35,000,000 of state and local money.
A December 2011 New York Times article depicts K12 as a profit-hungry company that puts business before education, squeezes money out of public schools, promotes itself vigorously and without concern for the best interests of students, and lacks quality due to staggering student-to-teacher ratios.
K12 responded to the “unfair, one-sided, and [having an] anti-parent choice agenda.”
In their November 2011 article on the questions surrounding virtual schools, The Washington Post provided some political history of K12, involving lobbyists and generous backing of political candidates who support virtual education.
North Carolina, it should be noted, is not without virtual options for learners. NC Virtual Public School provides online learning opportunities, ranging from credit recovery and occupational courses to Advanced Placement courses. As with the rest of the state’s education system, virtual education funding is tight. A November 2011 article in the News and Observer shows some counties are enrolling the maximum number of students in virtual classes, and are having to prioritize enrollments based on graduation needs.
Full school board meeting agenda for Monday, June 4.
Information about virtual education in NC, visit eLearningNC, “a one-stop gateway to all eLearning resources offered by K-20 public education in the State.” This is a government website.
History of NC Charter Schools by the John Locke Foundation’s director of education studies. (JLF is a free-market advocacy organization which describes itself as “seeking a better balance between the public sector and private institutions of family, faith, community, and enterprise.”)
Studies and reports on online education:
The Fiscal Times’ November 2011 article questioning the viability of online learning, especially for children as young as 5.
Political forces behind virtual education movement: The Nation’s December 2011 article.
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