NC virtual charter group rebuffed by NC Court of Appeals

ablythe@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2013 

— A charter school that had planned to open in the fall of 2012 and offer only online classes failed to convince the N.C. Court of Appeals that it should have been allowed to move forward with its plan without approval by the State Board of Education.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, a three-judge appeals court panel rejected arguments by N.C. Learns, a nonprofit organization backed by K12 Inc., a for-profit company and one of the biggest players in the online education business.

In early 2012, N.C. Learns used an unusual process in its quest to open the state’s first virtual charter school.

The nonprofit organization won approval from the school board in Cabarrus County, near Charlotte, to set up an online charter school that would have drawn students from across the state.

The State Board of Education never voted on the project, opting at the time to take a pass on a proposal that raised vexing issues about online learning, funding formulas and quality control for students being educated with public dollars outside brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Though a state administrative law judge said the school could open because the state school board “had failed to act” on the N.C. Learns’ proposal, a Wake County judge ruled in June 2012 that the organization could not open its school in North Carolina without approval from the State Board of Education.

Though the school did not open in the fall of 2012, the organization behind the proposal continued its legal challenge with the state Court of Appeals.

N.C. Learns argued that the state board created an illegal moratorium on virtual charter schools by not voting on the application.

The three-judge appeals court panel disagreed.

During the months that N.C. Learns was trying to open its school, a state “E-Learning Commission” was considering new policies to govern such ventures. The board put a freeze on all applications until procedures were determined. In January, nearly a year after the N.C. Learns proposal was put forward, the State Board of Education adopted guiding principles for virtual charters.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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