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Education Superhighway? NC Approves Virtual Charter Schools

Photo: North Carolina may have as many as two privately owned, online charter schools next year. Photo credit:
Photo: North Carolina may have as many as two privately owned, online charter schools next year. Photo credit:
October 30, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. – Starting next year, North Carolina's charter schools will expand beyond the four walls of a classroom.

State lawmakers approved a pilot program in this year's budget that requires the state Board of Education to approve two statewide virtual charter schools – making the companies eligible for millions in public education dollars.

Yevonne Brannon, chair of the advocacy group Public Schools First North Carolina, is concerned about the quality of education that state tax dollars will fund.

"It's something to really be concerned about because we're taking tax dollars earmarked for public schools, and we're putting them into a charter,” she points out. “It's totally online. We have no way to judge its quality or judge the impact on the actual student learning."

K12 Incorporated and Connections Academy – the nation's two largest online education companies – have applied for online charter school status.

The schools would receive approximately $9,000 per student.

Supporters of the charter programs say it will offer the state's students more choices.

The program is separate from the North Carolina Virtual Public School, currently run by the state that offers online classes to students.

Neighboring Tennessee opened a K12 Incorporated school four years ago, but may shut the school down at the end of this year, citing three years of low test scores.

"All of these things drain money from the already lean budgets of our state public schools,” Brannon points out. “So they're already struggling and we're going to be pouring more students, more money away from the public schools."

If approved, as many as 3,000 students could be enrolled in the two schools combined by the end of next year.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC