Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina State Board of Education members on Wednesday will review applications from the two groups that want to take part in two virtual charter school pilot programs the state is scheduled to run starting in the 2015-16 school year.
The committee will hear from representatives from the North Carolina Virtual Academy, which is affiliated with K12 Education, at 10:30 a.m. At 11:40 a.m., the committee will interview applicants with North Carolina Connections Academy, which is with Connections Education.
"The board wants to make sure the proposals are quality applications," said Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Instruction.
North Carolina already has an online public school that provides supplemental classes via the Internet to students enrolled in other public schools. Students enrolled in a virtual charter would take all of their classes online.
A provision in the state budget passed this summer directs the state board to approve two virtual charter pilots. Although there are only two applicants for two slots, Jeter said it's possible board members could ultimately choose to reject one or both.
"It is possible," Jeter said. "They do anticipate reviewing them for quality."
Virtual charters have been controversial. Proponents say they provide a way for advanced students to go at their own pace and for students who don't thrive in traditional settings to learn. But critics question their quality and point out that, while the schools have local boards, the money goes to out-of-state companies.
Of the two companies aiming to open virtual charters next year, K12, has been the subject of controversy. Two years ago, the company sued the state when the Board of Education refused to consider its application for a virtual charter.
The North Carolina Association of Educators, a teachers group that is critical of virtual charters overall, wrote a letter to the state board saying members should be especially mindful of quality concerns with K12.
"Education experts and financial analysts alike have raised concerns about both the quality of K12 managed schools as well as the viability of K12's business model," NCAE President Rodney Ellis wrote to the board.
The committee will not have the final say on approval, but it is scheduled to report back to the full board in January.