A North Carolina judge ruled that an online charter school, N.C. Virtual Academy, will not be able to open in August as planned, stating that only the state school board had the authority to rule on the matter.
“The judge stated the Office of Administrative Hearings had no right to grant N.C. Learns a charter,” Lynda Fuller, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction said to ABC News. “The board has the planning authority to determine whether, how and when to approve charter applications.”
The charter, run by for-profit company, N.C. Learns, is designed to offer online only classes to students from kindergarten through 10th grade. It had planned on enrolling more than 1,700 students in the fall drawing upon students from across the state.
“This would be the first full-time online school in the state that offers a diploma,” Joel Medley, director for the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools said to The News Observer.
However, the North Carolina State Board of Education did not vote on the project citing concerns with online learning, funding formulas and quality control for students being educated with public dollars outside of physical schools.
“The concern here is we’re not ready to approve an online charter school at this time,” Bill Harrison, chairman of the state school board said to The News Observer.
To help remedy these issues, the state board has formed an ‘E-Learning Commission’ to investigate and consider new policies concerning online learning. However, this means the school may not open until 2014.
This has school-choice advocates disappointed in the state’s decision, especially since the state had made it possible to add more charter schools by lifting a cap on charters.
“It is a sad day for parents and children in North Carolina who need this public school option,” Chris Withrow, chairman of N.C. Learns, said in a prepared statement. “We are particularly disappointed and frustrated that the State Board of Education ignored our charter school application and never gave us a fair hearing.”
Withrow continued stating, “By not acting on our application and by unilaterally declaring a moratorium on certain types of charter schools, the State Board has undercut the charter school law and will of the Legislature.”
N.C. Learns, gained permission to open the online charter through the Cabarrus County school board. However, it would have allowed students across the state could enroll in the school.
Because the state’s current educational funding formula has local school districts giving thousands of dollars to charter programs, online charters would have districts paying for home-schooled students as well.
“As a state, we have responsibility for all our children,” Harrison said to The News Observer. “The funding piece is a function of the General Assembly, and they don’t seem to want to provide that.”
N.C. Learn has yet to decide whether they will appeal the decision.
James Dugan is a writer for 360 Education Solutions