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 called 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,” says Setser.
The third group is called North Carolina Cyber Academy. Like K12’s proposal, the group wants to serve elementary, middle and high school students. However, state board policy doesn’t allow online charters to serve elementary students.