Hardister backs off support for K12 (the company )
Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 10:47 am | Updated: 11:13 am, Tue May 28, 2013.
By Travis Faintravis.firstname.lastname@example.org
From Sarah Ovaska at N.C. Policy Watch, who has been all over the ongoing battle over a proposed virtual private school, which would be backed by a company called K12:
(State rep. Jon Hardister), with the help of K12, Inc. lobbyists, initially drafted language that would have automatically opened the K12, Inc.-run school this fall. The new version he’s working on will allow the state board a chance to review the proposal instead of automatically opening the school, he said.
The initial version of the PCS was passed out in a House Education committee Tuesday, but Hardister displaced it and took it off the agenda for discussion after hearing concerns from public education and a charter school group about the automatic approval.
You may remember this issue from last year. K12 is a for-profit company behind a number of charter schools, and it asked for permission to open a virtual charter school (online classes) based in Cabarrus County, but potentially pulling students and funding from all over North Carolina.
The State Board of Education declined to take up the application, saying it didn’t have the criteria in place to deal with virtual schools. Should they get the same funding, for example, as a charter school with an actual building?
But Cabarrus County’s school board approved the school, and it was set to open when a judge stepped in and put things on hold.
You may also remember K12 from the state of Florida’s investigation of the company’s schools there . Or from this New York Times article, which was the product of several months work and was not laudatory in nature.
Enter Hardister, a first-term Republican from here in Guilford County. He said a K12 lobbyist approached him this session, hoping to get the school’s application moving again. Hardister worked language into House Bill 273, which deals with other charter school issues as well, to open the school without State Board approval
“My immediate reaction was, well that’s kind of messed up, the school board should have acted on it,” Hardister told me Friday. “... (and) our thinking at the time was we can find a way to let the school operate.“
But, as Hardister heard from more people, he said he thought better of this. He changed the bill to give the State Board 30 days to act on the application and, if they don’t, then the school is approved. That’s the “new version” Ovaska noted above, and her article is dated May 9.
But even that has changed now, after a State board member reached out to State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, a co-sponsor on H 273, as well as the House Speaker Pro Tem and a go-to guy on school choice issues. That, Hardister said, is when he heard the board’s concerns over just how to fund a virtual charter school.
It “doesn’t seem right” to fund it the same as a brick-and-mortar school, Hardister said. A separate bill to clarify that process may be in the officing, he said. Language dealing with K12’s school – which would be run through a non-profit called N.C. Learns – was stripped from the bill, Hardister said.
“We decided that it would be better to allow this process to carry out,” Hardister said. “The school board should have acted on it ... but we shouldn’t go back and just retroactively rewrite the law. The more I thought about it the less comfortable I felt.“