Local/State

No decision yet on virtual charter school

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Wake County Superior Court judge began hearing arguments Monday in a lawsuit challenging the creation of a statewide virtual charter school.

North Carolina Learns wants to set up the online school that would technically be based in Cabarrus County, but students from across North Carolina could apply.

N.C. Learns plans to open the charter in August with an expected 2,750 students in the first year. Because it's a charter school, any district where a student lives would have to send the charter school the several thousand dollars in funding it would normally get for that student.

Local school districts who have to pay to build schools and other facilities say it's unfair to make them give up their full funding to an online operation that does not provide brick and mortar schools. Eighty-nine of North Carolina's 115 public school districts have joined the case "North Carolina Learns, Inc. v. State Board of Education."

The lawsuit challenging the school says it did not follow proper procedure in getting approval to operate.

The State Board of Education took no action on the school's request to operate, saying it requested a study from the E-Learning Commission to see what kind of standards should be set up for online schools. The study was not completed when N.C. Learn's application came to the board for approval.

Instead, N.C. Learns went to Cabarrus County and got a charter approved there. A state administrative law judge ruled in May that it could begin operations.

For allowing the charter school to operate in its district, the Cabarrus County Board of Education would receive 4 percent of the money the charter gets from other districts. While N.C. Learns is a nonprofit organization, K12, Inc., a for-profit education company, would provide lessons and other curriculum.

The judge could decide whether to allow this virtual charter school in North Carolina or to keep them out of the state at least temporarily.

A decision is expected Friday.

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