The state Board of Education will get a report Wednesday on virtual charter schools, a venture other states have tried with mixed results.
The report suggests that the state legislature clarify rules for charter schools that have no physical location, and that the state consider starting with a pilot authorizing about three virtual charter schools. It also suggests a different funding formula than that used for most charter schools. While counties are required to pass along per-pupil funding for those schools, the report suggests making it optional for online charters.
State education officials, Public Impact consulting firm and advisers from charter schools, districts, higher education and homeschoolers crafted the plan, which will go to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee if the state board approves it.
Virtual education is hardly a new concept, as the report notes. The state has already created its own Virtual Public School, and several districts, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Iredell-Statesville and Union County, also offer their own online courses.
"This trend is quickly growing across the state, even attracting homeschoolers in some districts and being used for dropout recovery in others. These locally based digital academies are largely using a
blended model, which provides education both virtually and in-person," the report says.
The question is whether North Carolina can ensure quality, which has been a challenge in states that moved more quickly to let other providers offer online education at public expense.
Providers are eager to jump in. Connections Academy, a Baltimore-based virtual school company that is part of Pearson, is holding meetings around North Carolina this month to drum up support for an eventual online charter program for grades 6-12.