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 with Public Schools First NC 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. It’s totally online. We have no way to judge its quality or judge the impact on the actual student learning.”
K-12 Incorporated and Connections Academy – the nation’s two largest online education companies – have applied for online charter school status. The schools would receive approximately nine-thousand dollars 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 K-12 Incorporated school four years ago but may shut the school down at the end of this year, citing three years of low test scores. Brannon says “We’re going to be pouring more students, more money away from the public schools.”
If approved, as many as three-thousand students could be enrolled in the two schools combined by the end of next year.