K12 Inc.: California Virtual Academies’ operator exploits charter, charity laws for money, records show

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com© Copyright 2016, Bay Area News Group

Posted:
 
04/18/2016 04:48:09 AM PDT

Frustrated with the quality of their neighborhood schools, parents, teachers and civic leaders have founded hundreds of California charter schools, combining locally sourced ingenuity with the public funding that state law allows them to command.

California’s largest network of online academies is different: Although the schools are set up like typical charters, records show they’re established and run by Virginia-based K12 Inc., whose claims of parental involvement and independent oversight appear to be a veneer for the moneymaking enterprise.

The company — the subject of a two-part investigative series by this newspaper — says the schools operate independently and are locally controlled. But the academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest something entirely different: K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

“What this company has done may make sense from a business perspective, but to me, it’s a sham,” said Renee Nash, a business and tax attorney and a member of the Eureka Union School District’s Board of Trustees.

“K12 is clearly taking advantage of the laws in California,” she said, “and the Legislature needs to put a stop to it.”

California law is silent on whether for-profit firms are even allowed to run charter schools. So before applying 14 years ago to open the state’s first online academies, K12 treaded cautiously into a new market, creating a series of nonprofit organizations whose names match those of the schools.

That means each California Virtual Academy is considered by the IRS to be a charitable organization that need not pay taxes, even though K12 effectively controls the schools by providing them with all academic services.

The structure, accounting experts say, makes it tough to tell where the nonprofit ends and where the company begins.

Mike Kraft, K12’s vice president for finance and communication, disputes that characterization. He said the nature of the relationship between the company and the schools is articulated clearly in documents.

“The contracts between K12 and each (academy) outline the parties’ obligations and expressly provide that the governing body of the school retains final decision-making authority and full control,” he said. Still, Kraft acknowledged that K12 personnel “may at times provide newly forming boards that lack any staff with administrative assistance on the organizational documents.”

Tax and education records show that K12 employees started each of more than a dozen online academies in California, even though the applications they filed to open the schools described the founders as a “group of parents,” none of whom were named. For several years, company employees even signed the nonprofit schools’ tax filings.

‘The law is clear’

Federal tax law prohibits charitable organizations from operating to benefit a person or company. And to that end, the online academies’ articles of incorporation vow that the schools’ money won’t be used to enrich “any shareholder or individual.”

“The law is clear: Charities may not use their resources to promote a business, even if that business’ services are helpful,” Eric Gorovitz, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in nonprofit tax law, said, speaking generally about charitable organizations. “And if the violation is bad enough, a charity could lose its exemption.”

According to the nonprofit’s application for tax-exempt status, California Virtual Academy at San Mateo has a board of directors whose members should be willing to cut ties with the company if they feel the school is getting a raw deal. Indeed, the application specifies that all agreements between K12 and the school are the result of “arm’s-length” negotiations.

But a review of minutes from the 2014-15 school year’s board meetings and records of the board’s relationship to administrators hand-picked by K12 suggest the board has little or no independence from the company. A K12 employee led the board meetings, and all 35 resolutions she encouraged the board to endorse won unanimous approval.

The board’s open public meetings are held during the workday in a conference room or around an administrator’s desk in the Daly City-based Jefferson Elementary School District, which authorized the academy’s charter. And board members rarely attend the meetings in person. They usually just call in from home.

All told, the board spent an average of 13 minutes in each meeting.

The board has four members. Two of them, President Don Burbulys, a resident of Soquel, in Santa Cruz County, and Stephen Warren, the board’s secretary, who lives in Riverside County, are related to high-ranking school administrators, who, under K12’s contract with the academy, are selected by the company.

Burbulys is married to Laura Terrazas, dean of student services, and Warren is related to Academic Administrator April Warren, according to a brief filed by teachers. Terrazas and April Warren on Sunday did not return calls or emails seeking comment. Burbulys, Stephen Warren and the board’s other two members have also declined requests for comment.

When K12 sought approval in 2009 to open a charter school for Contra Costa County students that featured a mix of online schooling and traditional classes in a brick-and-mortar setting, Mt. Diablo Unified School District denied the application, citing concerns about the company’s role in running the proposed school day to day.

“Not only does the charter school delegate all charter school-related operations, management and administrative functions to K12 California, but it inappropriately gives K12 California control over areas that should be the responsibility of school site staff and the charter school’s governing board,” the Mt. Diablo school board wrote in a report.

But Contra Costa County, as well as Alameda County residents, can still enroll in a K12 school because there’s a California Virtual Academy in San Joaquin County, and the state allows online students from adjoining counties to enroll.

A close look at the contract between California Virtual Academy at San Mateo and K12 raises questions about why a truly independent board of directors would ever agree to the terms, said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University expert on online schools.

Under the contract, which Huerta reviewed for this newspaper, K12 handles almost every aspect of the public school’s operations. It’s responsible for writing curricula, hiring principals, recruiting students and much more. In exchange, the company is entitled to compensation that can amount to as much as 75 percent of the school’s public funding.

Jefferson Elementary school trustees and administrators are tasked with reviewing the contract, but no state agency is required to examine it.

The school’s application for tax-exempt status states “the charter school determined that it paid no more than fair market rate for the services.” Yet in a bizarre twist, the rates outlined in the contract routinely exceed what the school can afford — by more than 25 percent.

K12 requires all its California academies to pay only what they can without going into debt. The company then issues “credits” to cover the balance.

California Virtual Academy at San Mateo, for example, hasn’t been able to pay its bill in full in a decade. So since 2007, K12 has given the school $8 million in credits. Over the past 10 years, the company has doled out more than $130 million in credits to all the California schools it operates.

Unique arrangement

Accountants and financial analysts interviewed by this newspaper, including several who specialize in school finance, say they’ve never seen anything quite like the arrangement between K12 and the public online academies.

“If the schools can’t cover their expenses and need K12 credits every year to balance their budgets, then the contingent liability to K12 just keeps growing,” said Charlene Podlipna, an accountant who works for Freeman & Mills, a Los Angeles-based litigation consulting firm.

Writing down the operating losses of the schools it manages in California and across the country has allowed K12 to reduce its taxable income by $179.5 million over the past three years, according to the company’s most recent annual report. That raises questions about why K12 consistently charges more than the schools can pay.

Kraft insisted the company doesn’t receive a tax deduction for forgiving the debts of the schools it operates. But when the newspaper presented Kraft with K12’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing and asked him to explain whether K12 wrote off the losses, his answer was hardly straightforward: “A company’s tax provision is based on its net income. A component of net income is the revenue that a company records. Anything that increases or decreases revenue, and ultimately impacts net income, would therefore impact the taxes owed by that company. K12 is no different than any other company in this respect.”

Katrina Abston, K12’s senior head of schools for the academies, defended the credits, saying they “provide a high level of protection” for the schools against financial uncertainties.

Huerta, however, said taxpayers could lose out in the end.

Typically, he said, any extra taxpayer funding on hand when a charter school shuts its doors is returned to the state’s general fund. But tucked away on one of the final pages of the K12 contracts is a clause that requires a school that’s closing to repay the company with any money it has left — meaning it’s highly unlikely the state would recoup anything.

“These companies are exploiting the gray in the law and using clever legal teams to skirt public accountability,” Huerta said. “Taxpayers and policymakers should be alarmed.”

To address some of the thorny problems that can crop up when for-profit companies run nonprofit public schools, the Legislature last year approved Assembly Bill 787, authored by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, that would have banned the practice.

But Gov. Jerry Brown rejected it, writing in his veto message: “I don’t believe the case has been made to eliminate for-profit charter schools in California.”

Read Part 1 of the investigation: Is online charter school network cashing in on failure?

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/calefati.

What our investigation found

  • Teachers employed by K12 Inc.’s charter schools may be asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding.
  • Fewer than half of the students who start the online high schools earn diplomas, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state’s public universities.
  • K12’s heavily marketed online model has helped the company reap more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years.
  • Students who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged in to K12’s school software may be counted as present in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.
  • About half of the schools’ students are not proficient in reading, and only a third are proficient in math — levels that fall far below statewide averages.
  • School districts that are supposed to oversee the company’s schools have a strong financial incentive to turn a blind eye to problems: They get a cut of the academies’ revenue, which largely comes from state coffers.
  • Eufaula Schools partner with K12 Inc. to launch new Alabama Virtual Academy

    Posted:

    Eufaula Schools partner with K12 Inc. to launch new Alabama Virtual Academy

    Eufaula City Schools announced this week that it has opened the Alabama Virtual Academy at Eufaula City Schools, a new statewide online public school. The school received approval from the Alabama Department of Education and is currently open to students across the state. It will serve students in grades K-2 the first year and expand to offer additional grades in subsequent years. 

    Alabama Virtual Academy at Eufaula City Schools is a tuition-free, full-time public school. The school starts on September 8 and is currently accepting new enrollments. Enrollment information for the school can be found at www.k12.com/AL.

    "Eufaula City Schools is excited to offer this innovative online public school to families in Alabama," Eddie Tyler, Superintendent of Eufaula City Schools, said. "Technology is the future in education, and online schools are a proven educational model. Our online public school will provide families a high-quality option and give students the individualized instruction and support to succeed. Alabama Virtual Academy reflects our school system's mission of 'building our future on a tradition of excellence.'"

    Students enrolled at Alabama Virtual Academy at Eufaula City Schools learn outside the traditional classroom and receive all their courses and participate in teacher-led instruction online. State-certified teachers work in close partnership with parents or other guardians who serve as learning coaches for the students.

    Eufaula City Schools is partnering with K12 Inc., America's largest provider of K-12 online and blended school offerings. Alabama Virtual Academy at Eufaula City Schools will use K12's award-winning curriculum and academic services. K12-network schools have been recognized for improving student outcomes, closing achievement gaps, helping students succeed, and delivering new instructional tools and programs for teachers. K12 Inc. is accredited by AdvancED, the world's largest education community.

    Recent legislation passed by the state legislature requires all Alabama school systems to adopt a plan to serve students through online schools by 2016-17. Eufaula City Schools is in a strong position to meet that requirement and expand education opportunities for students in its school system and across the state.

    "Our partnership with K12 allows us to leverage the expertise and best practices used by a highly qualified team of experienced educators without impacting our system's existing educational programs or personnel," Tyler said. "We are also excited about the opportunity to work with K12 to expand the number of courses we can offer to the students in our school system."

    NC Charter Chief Becomes Head Of Online Charter School

    Joel Medley meets with charter advisory board in his previous job as Director of the Office of Charter Schools.

    Credit Lisa Worf / WFAE

    Listen

    Listening…

    The Director of North Carolina’s Office of Charter Schools took a new job this week. He is now the head of an online charter school that won approval from the state board of education this year.

    It made us wonder what policies the state has to ensure public employees aren’t applying for jobs with the same groups they may be vetting or negotiating contracts with. There aren’t many.

    Joel Medley is now the Head of Schools for North Carolina Virtual Academy. But up until last week, he led the state’s Office of Charter Schools. It oversees all of the state’s charters and helps analyze applications of groups applying to become charter schools.

    That list of applications this year included the online charter Medley now leads. He’s actually an employee of K12 Inc., the for-profit company that manages the school. The group had applied before, but failed to make it through the process.

    State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said Medley’s review of the school was thorough.

    “I know he scrutinized these as closely as possible and brought up all the possible criticisms and negatives during the process,” says Cobey.

    Medley helped review North Carolina Virtual Academy last October. His part of it did include some tough questions about how many students the group expects would withdraw and how the school would plan to deal with children with disabilities.

    State Board of Education members approved the school in February. They didn’t have much choice since state law established a pilot program for two online charters and only two applied.

    “I don’t think there’s anything that went on between him and K12 before this approval. In some cases you might suspect somebody, but not with Joel Medley, not at all,” says Cobey.

    Medley says he would never do that. He says he didn’t talk to K12 about a job, until he saw the post in April and it seemed like a good fit.

    “My wife and I had conversations about looking to get back to a principalship and, in the last few months, it just kind of happened,” says Medley.

    He says he didn’t tell his bosses he applied for the job, but they knew in general he was thinking about moving on.

    Situations like this leave too much up to trust says Jane Pinsky, Director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

    “In many of these cases, people are not involved in something that’s malicious or wrong, but it does undermine citizen confidence and without citizen confidence our democracy doesn’t work,” says Pinsky.

    State law requires a six month cooling off period for lawmakers and certain high-level public employees who become lobbyists. But there isn’t anything like that for most public employees taking jobs in the areas they regulate or with companies or groups whose applications they may vet or whose contracts they may negotiate.

    State Superintendent June Atkinson doesn’t see conflict-of-interest concerns arising from Medley’s case.

    “He was not the deciding person as to which companies would get the charter,” says Atkinson.

    Some state agencies have conflict of interest policies that cover what are called “revolving door” situations. But many like the Department of Public Instruction don’t.

    Two years ago, a Department of Health and Human Services employee who helped oversee the rollout of a Medicaid billing system took a job with the company responsible for the massive project that had problem after problem. That prompted State Senator Jeff Tarte and others to introduce bills trying to put restrictions on these situations.

    “There needs to be appropriate steps followed to ensure even the perception of any impropriety is not present,” says Tarte.

    One such bill passed the Senate this year. It essentially places a six month cooling off period on any state employees who take jobs with companies they’re regulating or whose contracts they’re overseeing. It aims to do that by not allowing state departments to contract with any groups using these new employees to administer state contracts.

    Virtual schools get state’s approval – Laurinburg Exchange – laurinburgexchange.com

    Virtual schools get state’s approval

    Last updated: December 20. 2014 8:12AM –


    North Carolina schoolchildren may be attending classes on their home computers next year, after a state education committee moved the applications of two proposed virtual charter schools forward Wednesday.

    The State Board of Education, which sets education policy in the state, will take up the applications of two virtual charter schools at their January meeting as part of a four-year pilot program created by the state legislature.

    A special committee of N.C. Department of Public Instruction staff and charter school educators voted Wednesday to move the applications from two proposed virtual school forward while also expressing concerns about how the online-based education system will serve students and taxpayers.

    “We need to be very careful,” said Becky Taylor, a State Board of Education member that served on the special committee, during Wednesday’s discussion. “Who is going to suffer if it doesn’t go well?”

    North Carolina has experienced a rapid increase in charter schools since state lawmakers lifted a 100-school cap in 2011 on the publicly funded schools run by private non-profit boards of directors. There are now 148 tuition-free charter schools that are operated in counties across the state.

    But North Carolina, unlike many states, doesn’t have any full-time virtual charter schools. The state does run the North Carolina Virtual Public School, which offers individual classes to schoolchildren around the state.

    North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature tucked a provision in this summer’s budget bill that created a four-year pilot program for two online-based charter schools to open by August 2015.

    Paul Davis, a committee member that works with N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s testing department, questioned Wednesday whether the online schools, with heavy involvement required from parents, would largely appeal to families already teaching their children outside public classrooms.

    “Elementary virtual school sounds almost like publicly-funded home schooling,” Davis said.

    The legislature opted to include younger students in the pilot despite prior recommendations from the State Board of Education to begin a pilot program with high school-aged children.

    Nationally, the virtual education market is dominated by two companies, K12 Inc. and Connections Academy, a subsidiary of Pearson, an educational publishing company also traded on Wall Street.

    If approved by the state, the N.C. Virtual Academy (which will be run by K12, Inc.) and N.C. Connections Academy (to be run by Connections Academy) each hope to enroll 1,500 students in the first year, for a total of 3,000 students.

    Though final funding formulas have not been set, high enrollments of students could potentially divert millions in public education dollars to the new virtual charter schools.

    Of the two companies vying to open charter schools in North Carolina, K12 Inc. is the more controversial, and faced more questions at Wednesday’s meeting. The State Board of Education blocked a 2012 bid to open a K12 Inc.-run school, leading to a lawsuit.

    The company operates virtual public schools in 30 other states and has garnered national attention for what critics say is a model geared more toward profits from public revenue streams than providing quality educations to students.

    The NCAA doesn’t currently accept classes from K12 Inc.-run schools for student-athletes looking to play at the collegiate level, and Tennessee education officials plan on shutting down a K12 Inc.-run virtual school there for low academic results.

    Proponents says that many of the students that turn to online education had been struggling in traditional schools, one reason why test scores may be lower than those of traditional charter schools.

    “We recognize that virtual education is not going to work for every child,” said Chris Whithrow, the board chair of N.C. Virtual Academy.

    Mary Gifford, a K12 Inc. senior vice-president, answered a question about issues the company has faced in other states by saying that no contracts have ended prematurely. At one Pennsylvania cyber school, which generates a large portion of K12 Inc.’s revenue stream, the school board recently opted to stop using the company for day-to-day management of the virtual school.

    “There are no charters that have been revoked,” Gifford said Wednesday. “There are a handful of contracts that have not renewed.”

    State Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said he supported the pilot program and backed putting it in the budget bill this summer.

    Horn also said he had gone on a visit with other lawmakers to visit K12, Inc’s headquarters in Herndon, Va. a few years ago while in Washington for a conference and was impressed with the company. Horn said he paid his own way, and could not recall what other lawmakers were with him on the trip nor when he went.

    “It left an impression on me that the organization was professional,” he said.

    K12 Inc.’s spokesperson Jeff Kwitowski said the company did not pay for a North Carolina delegation to visit, and that groups often drop in to visit the company’s headquarters in northern Virginia while attending to other business in the nation’s capital.

    The pilot program will show whether virtual charter schools should have a permanent spot in the state’s educational system, Horn said.

    “It deserves a look,” he said.

    Sarah Ovaska writes for NC Policy Watch. She can be reached at 919-861-1463.

    Two apply to run virtual public charter schools | Under the Dome Blog | NewsObserver.com

    Two apply to run virtual public charter schools

    Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 22, 2014

    2014-10-22T22:40:57Z

    The legislature ordered two virtual charter schools be approved for pilot programs beginning next year. The State Board of Education put out the call for applicants and got two responses.

    The North Carolina Virtual Academy, which would contract with the for-profit company K12, and North Carolina Connections Academy applied.

    Like traditional charters, the virtual charters would be public schools using taxpayer money to educate students. But class work would be done online.

    K12 has tried to get a foothold in the state for years. NC Learns, a nonprofit that would have used K12’s curriculum, had a lawsuit to force the state to let it operate. K12 has been controversial other states.

    The Tennessee Education Commissioner ordered the Tennessee Virtual Academy run by K12 to close next year because of low student growth.

    North Carolina Connections Academy has tried to gain approval through the traditional State Board process. The board rejected its application this year, but there was some talk among members that it might make sense for the Connections Academy to apply as a pilot project.

    An education consultant with the charter school office in the state Department of Public Instruction, said the board would still go through its applicant reviews even though there are only two applicants.

    The board is scheduled to talk about the applicants in December and vote in January. The approved schools are scheduled to open in August.

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    Maine Legislature Enacts Moratorium on Virtual Schools | Diane Ravitch’s blog

    Maine Legislature Enacts Moratorium on Virtual Schools

    Although K12 Inc. and Pearson’s Connections Academy have lobbied for approval of virtual for-profit charter schools in Maine, the state senate voted 22-13[1] to put a freeze on them until further study about their effectiveness. The vote fell two short of the 24 needed to override a veto by Governor Paul LePage, a recipient of campaign contributions from the online industry.

    Lobbying by the online industry and ties between former Governor Jeb Bush and the LePage administration were the subject of an award-winning exposé[2] in the Maine Sunday-Telegram last fall. LePage’s Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, and the exposé last fall revealed that Bowen relied on Bush’s Organization, the Foundation for Educational Excellence, for ideas and legislative language.

    Bowen still relies on Bush for policy guidance. Last month he announced an A-F grading system for Maine schools, an idea first implemented in Florida by then-Governor Bush. It is used in some places, like New York City, as a means to close schools and replace them with charter schools.

    Regarding the moratorium, Commissioner Bowen said that the moratorium was “designed to halt the development of virtual schools.” Well, yes, that seems to be the point.

    East TN’s newest cyber academy denied approval by state, for now

    6:56 AM, Aug 9, 2013  |  0 comments

    Mary Scott

    Several hundred students hoped to start class on their home computer from East Tennessee’s newest virtual school in the next few days.

    But the State Department of Education is putting Tennessee Cyber Academy on hold.

    As we’ve been reporting, Campbell County School Board voted 9-1 to partner with the for-profit company K12, Inc. to open a new public school offering homeschooling via the internet to students in Campbell County and across the state.

    The K12, Inc. program is currently used in another publicly funded virtual school in Union County called the Tennessee Virtual Academy. The company’s curriculums are also used in 2,000 other school districts in all 50 states.

    Campbell County Schools start Friday and administrators are encouraging anyone who applied for TCA to enroll at your local school until they receive notice from the state.

    According to a letter sent to Campbell County Schools by the Deputy Commissioner of Education, Dr. Kathleen Airhart, TCA has not been approved to operate the school.

    The state said their application did not contain information needed to issue TCA a school number. The letter said Campbell County Schools failed to include items such as the number of teachers, length of student day, and what tests will be administered. It also said that Campbell County Schools provided a brochure with K12, Inc’s information but that it was not adequate to provide information about the management plan for the school.

    “We appreciate your desire to provide additional education opportunities to students; however, we remain concerned about your ability to successfully open and operate this school for the 2013-2014 school year. Please note that until you have received approval, the proposed school is not eligible to receive public funds for enrolled students,” Dr. Airhart said in the letter.

    Campbell County School’s Manager of Special Projects, Dr. Eunice Reynolds, said they are working to get them the necessary paperwork.

    “A lot of it is information that has been sent. We are in the process of trying to confirm and review every item,” Dr. Reynolds said.

    Dr. Reynolds said despite the setbacks, she still believes the school will open by the end of August.

    “I feel like it will happen. First, I have a lot of faith that what we’ve been trying to do for our children won’t be just swept away. Because we are very sincerely interested in doing what’s best for the children,” she said.

    Dr. Reynolds, who has worked in education for 45 years, said said virtual schools are a necessity not just for their students but for students across the state who will also be eligible to apply.

    “There are so many types of students that need a different environment,” Dr. Reynolds said. “Many, many [parents] have called asking, ‘Please help! This is what I have prayed for, for my child, because my child has serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization frequently.'”

    The only person on the Campbell County School Board to vote against TCA, Eugene Lawson, had no knowledge of the state’s letter. But he did not approve of K12’s proposal in the first place based his research from Union County’s virtual school.

    The 2011-2012 TCAP data available showed Tennessee Virtual Academy students scored in the bottom 11% of the state and the Union County Director of Schools said 2012-2013 data shows the school once again performed poorly on the TCAP.

    “Their scores had been very low and they didn’t appear to be measuring up. If we set up a virtual school in our county, the scores of that virtual school will be compiled with our scores in the regular program and we’re already fighting to try to pull our scores up. I don’t want anything to pull them down,” said Lawson.

    Dr. Reynolds said TCAP scores in Union County do not mean that Campbell County will also perform poorly. 

    “Another school system’s scores being bad two years in a row does not discourage me because we look at each situation uniquely and separately,” said Dr. Reynolds.

    While Campbell County School’s website still says students can apply to enroll in “an exciting opportunity” in TCA, they are encouraging all who have applied to enroll in their local district until they learn the final decision from the state.

     

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    3 groups want to open online charter schools in 2015

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    By Lisa Miller

    WFAE

    Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

    Dozens of new charter schools have opened in North Carolina since the cap on them was lifted a couple years ago. But the state still does not have an online charter. This year, three groups hope to get approval to open virtual charters.

    One reason North Carolina doesn’t have any online charters is because up until this year the state board of education was still trying to figure out how much money to give those charters. Virtual charters often don’t have a schoolhouse. There are teachers, but usually class sizes are much larger than at a regular brick-and-mortar school.

    That issue has been resolved, at least for now. State board policy says the state should give virtual charters about $3,600 per student. That’s about $1,500 less than what most charters in the state receive.

    The for-profit company K12 is seeking approval again. Two years ago, the group tried to open a charter school serving 2,750 students. Cabarrus County Schools joined in that application because the district would have received a small percentage of profits.

    Another for-profit company, Connections Education, also wants to open an online charter. Bryan Setser is part of that effort. He helped found the state department of public instruction’s version of online education called North Carolina Virtual Public Schools. He says the school would focus on quality, not enrollment numbers.

    “We’re not trying to serve 50,000 or 80,000 students. We’re trying to serve 1,000, look at how that’s going and, then, scale to 1,500, then 2000 and really make sure we have the right infrastructure and are deliberate about it,” Setser said.

    A third group, North Carolina Cyber Academy, like K12 wants to serve elementary, middle and high school students. However, state board policy doesn’t allow online charters to serve elementary students.

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    • Larry Bumgarner · Top Commenter · Charlotte, North Carolina

      Choices in education. Why that sounds like a real threat to CMS. No problem as CMS is now starting a myriad of real world magnet schools, to counter this threat, and provide what so many parents want.



      Why did it take so long and have to be so hard. Be sure to watch the meeting tonight as they do so.

      Reply · Like · Follow Post · Yesterday at 6:35am

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      East TN’s newest cyber academy denied approval by state, for now

      5:56 AM, Aug 9, 2013 | 0 comments

      Several hundred students hoped to start class on their home from East Tennessee’s newest virtual school in the next few days.

      But the State Department of Education is putting Tennessee Cyber Academy on hold.

      As we’ve been reporting, Campbell County School Board voted 9-1 to partner with the for-profit company K12, Inc . to open a new public school offering homeschooling via the internet to students in Campbell County and across the state.

      The K12, Inc. program is currently used in another publicly funded school in Union County called the Tennessee Virtual Academy. The company’s curriculums are also used in 2,000 other school districts in all 50 states.

      Campbell County Schools start Friday and administrators are encouraging anyone who applied for TCA to enroll at your local school until they receive notice from the state.

      According to a letter sent to Campbell County Schools by the Deputy Commissioner of Education, Dr. Kathleen Airhart, TCA has not been approved to operate the school.

      The state said their application did not contain information needed to issue TCA a school number. The letter said Campbell County Schools failed to include items such as the number of teachers, length of student day, and what tests will be administered. It also said that Campbell County Schools provided a brochure with K12, Inc’s information but that it was not adequate to provide information about the management plan for the school.

      “We appreciate your desire to provide additional education opportunities to students; however, we remain concerned about your ability to successfully open and operate this school for the 2013-2014 school year. Please note that until you have received approval, the proposed school is not eligible to receive public funds for enrolled students,” Dr. Airhart said in the letter.

      Campbell County School’s Manager of Special Projects, Dr. Eunice Reynolds, said they are working to get them the necessary paperwork.

      “A lot of it is information that has been sent. We are in the process of trying to confirm and review every item,” Dr. Reynolds said.

      Dr. Reynolds said despite the setbacks, she still believes the school will open by the end of August.

      “I feel like it will happen. First, I have a lot of faith that what we’ve been trying to do for our children won’t be just swept away. Because we are very sincerely interested in doing what’s best for the children,” she said.

      Dr. Reynolds, who has worked in education for 45 years, said said virtual schools are a necessity not just for their students but for students across the state who will also be eligible to apply.

      “There are so many types of students that need a different environment,” Dr. Reynolds said. “Many, many [parents] have called asking, ‘Please help! This is what I have prayed for, for my child, because my child has serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization frequently.‘”

      The only person on the Campbell County School Board to vote against TCA, Eugene Lawson, had no knowledge of the state’s letter. But he did not approve of K12’s proposal in the first place based his research from Union County’s virtual school.

      The 2011-2012 TCAP available showed Tennessee Virtual Academy students scored in the bottom 11% of the state and the Union County Director of Schools said 2012-2013 data shows the school once again performed poorly on the TCAP.

      “Their scores had been very low and they didn’t appear to be measuring up. If we set up a virtual school in our county, the scores of that virtual school will be compiled with our scores in the regular program and we’re already fighting to try to pull our scores up. I don’t want anything to pull them down,” said Lawson.

      Dr. Reynolds said TCAP scores in Union County do not mean that Campbell County will also perform poorly.

      “Another school system’s scores being bad two years in a row does not discourage me because we look at each situation uniquely and separately,” said Dr. Reynolds.

      While Campbell County School’s website still says students can apply to enroll in “an opportunity” in TCA, they are encouraging all who have applied to enroll in their local district until they learn the final decision from the state.

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      Department of Education denies charter school’s requests to make changes

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      Moyer already made the curriculum changes during the past school year, but still sought DoE’s official approval. However, state officials rejected both requests Thursday.

      Secretary of Education Mark Murphy rejected the curriculum change. Murphy approved the enrollment changes, but the state board rejected them.

      Major charter modifications require both Murphy and the board’s approval. Since the school’s enrollment goals weren’t adjusted and it didn’t get permission for changes it has already made, Murphy and board members said the school is in violation of its charter.

      Murphy said he didn’t approve the curriculum changes because school officials hadn’t sufficiently proven they would align with state standards and guidelines.

      Keith Stephenson, a vice president with K12 Inc., said he was “disappointed” at Murphy’s decision. He said scores on the state-issued DCAS test show the school is making significant progress.

      In both math and reading, Moyer’s students’ scores improved by double digits in virtually every grade, in some grades growing scores by as much as 20 or 30 percent.

      “We made more than 20-point gains in both reading and mathematics, and that kind of supports the fact that we know what we’re doing,”said Stephenson, a former head of school at Moyer and K12’s point-man at the school.

      “There’s obviously some kind of disconnect here. I don’t know if our curriculum isn’t aligned by a week or by two months or what, but when you have double-digit gains on tests, I think it’s safe to say things are going right.”

      Board members who voted not to approve Moyer’s request to lower enrollment raised questions about whether the school can survive with such a low student count. State monitors say Moyer is financially solvent, but only with the continued support of K12, which is infusing money and personnel.

      “All K12 would have to to do is not want to lose money anymore on this school and they would pull out,” said board member Pat Heffernan. “What happens then?”

      Other board members said they were nervous about plans for Moyer to buy its building. The school’s board of directors and the The Reinvestment Fund, which currently owns the building, are working out plans for Moyer to buy the building it is currently leasing. The lease expires at the end of September.

      But without a final signed agreement in hand, several board members said the arrangement wasn’t yet permanent enough to merit approval.

      “The only thing I’m certain about at this point is that they have a place until Sept. 30,” said Board President Teri Quinn Gray. “If something happens between now and then, we will have students in a building and, come Oct. 1, what’s going to happen?”

      Stephenson said the school is simply waiting for some procedural and bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared before signing a final document. And he said K12 was strongly committed to “standing by” Moyer.

      “The thing about this is that K12 had already invested over $1 million into Moyer,” Stephenson said. “If K12 pulled out, it would have already pulled out. There was a break point for that to happen last July, and it didn’t happen. K12 is interested in seeing this thing through.”

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        Department of Education denies charter school's requests to make changes | The News Journal | delawareonline.com


        Department of Education denies charter school’s requests to make changes

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        The original school lost its charter in 2010 because of academic performance problems, but pressure from community leaders led to a state takeover and a re-opening as The New Moyer Academy in 2012. The school is currently operating with the support of management company K12 Inc. / News Journal file

        Written by
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        The News Journal


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        State officials rejected The New Moyer Academy charter school’s request Thursday for two major changes and said the school is in violation of its charter.

        The state says it is working with the school to resolve its issues. Moyer leaders say new test scores released Thursday show their plans are working and they hope the state will give them the chance to prove it.

        Department of Education Chief of Staff Mary Kate McLaughlin said the state has several options at this point. The most severe route would be for DoE to put Moyer in front of the state board for formal review, which could lead to closing the school or other harsh consequences.

        But McLaughlin said that, for now at least, the state will simply work with Moyer to find a way to bring them into line with the systemhttp://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/. Until an agreement is reached, the state board will get updates on the school at each of its monthly meetings.

        Moyer’s student population is 90 percent black and almost entirely low-income, coming from some of Wilmington’s most troubled neighborhoods. The original school lost its charter in 2010 because of academic performance problems, but pressure from community leaders led to a state takeover and a re-opening as The New Moyer Academy in 2012. The school is currently operating with the support of management company K12 Inc.

        Moyer has enrolled fewer students than required by its current charter, so it sought the state’s permission to modify that charter and set lower enrollment goals. Next year, for example, the school wants to lower its enrollment goal from 385 students to 225.

        The school has 201 students enrolled for the coming year.

        Moyer also asked the state for permission to overhaul its curriculum. The school originally employed teaching centered around online learninghttp://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/, with students moving through classes at their own pace while teachers acted as facilitators.

        Moyer asked the state to approve moving to a “blended” model, where students would take core classes like math, science and English in a traditional classroomhttp://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ setting, but still could use computers for elective classes.

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