There are new developments in the battle to open a statewide virtual school in North Carolina. A judge in Wake County, N.C., ruled that North Carolina Virtual Learning Academy, a statewide virtual charter school to be managed by online learning company K12 Inc., cannot open this fall.
As my colleague Sean Cavanagh reports on the Charters & Choice blog (and has been reported on this blog before), the virtual academy had been approved by a local school board in Cabarrus County after the state board of education declined to act on the school's charter application. The state sued NC Learns, the nonprofit organization applying to open the school, claiming the organization circumvented the charter approval process. Ninety school districts from around the state eventually joined the suit.
The state board said it did not decide on the academy's charter application because it still had to determine state policy for those schools. There was also concern that a statewide virtual school could siphon students and tax dollars away from local districts.
An administrative judge ruled in favor of the virtual academy in May, but on Friday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones decided the school could not open without state approval. NC Learns said it may appeal the decision and that the state's decision last year to lift the charter school cap gives it the right to open through the traditional process.
At any rate, it's yet another big state policy battle involving virtual schools and accountability. The Philadelphia Daily News reported today that Frontier Virtual Charter High School is attempting to remain open after the state ordered it closed due to allegations of financial and academic improprieties. States such as Arizona, Michigan, and Mississippi all debated virtual schools legislation this year.
I spoke with some executives from K12 Inc. last week at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in San Diego. We spoke a lot about the online curriculum it sells to school districts, public schools, and private schools, which accounts for only about 15 percent—but growing— of the company's total revenue ($26.4 of $178 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2012), with the remainder coming from schools that K12 Inc. manages.
Might the political battles surrounding virtual charters entice virtual school companies like K12 Inc. to shift more of their resources toward their curriculum businesses, a tough business still entrenched in politics but perhaps a less volatile one?