Georgia Expands State-Chartered Virtual Schools
Online education opportunities will expand for hundreds of K-12 students this fall in Georgia after the state’s charter schools commission approved two new schools. The Friday (June 18) vote will increase the number of state charter schools from eight to ten, an embryonic figure but a move in the right direction toward much needed education choice.
More than 1.65 million Georgia students attend traditional public schools; 65,000 attend charter schools. Just 430 attended two state charter schools this year. Six new charters were already scheduled to open this fall before Friday’s decision that approved two virtual charter schools.
Provost Academy Georgia will open its online doors as Georgia’s first entirely virtual high school serving up to 800 freshmen through senior year students this fall. Provost’s application said it plans to enroll up to 2,700 online high school students within five years.
Kaplan Academy of Georgia was approved to enroll up to 960 students this fall with 480 in sixth through eighth grades and the remainder in high school. Kaplan predicts that it could enroll up to 5,575 students within five years. Fourth and fifth grade will be added in fall 2011.
Mark Peevy is executive director of the state charter schools commission. He said the Provost and Kaplan applications both demonstrated “good academic plans. We saw strength in their capacity to operate the schools. We saw independence in their boards and real local flavor.”
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission vote comes against the backdrop of a nasty legal education civil war waged by public school districts that are trying to block charter schools from receiving taxpayer dollars when students leave traditional schools for charter schools.
A Georgia Superior Court judge upheld the constitutionality of state created charter schools in a May 2010 ruling that has already been appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. A Georgia Charter Schools Association spokesman said the Supreme Court hearing is expected next year.
Peevy said a favorable Supreme Court ruling would “really nail down the mechanics and certainly the legality of the commission itself. Then beyond that, we’re facing the hurdles that any new organization faces. What we’ve done so far is to approve schools. The next piece is developing the right accountability measures.”
Georgia’s two newest virtual charter schools will contract for curriculum with outside education management organizations that are big-time online education players.
Provost will align with New York-based EdisonLearning, Inc., which has more than two decades experience in online education. EdisonLearning says more than one-half million students were enrolled in its classes this year in 25 states, the United Kingdom and Dubai.
Kaplan Academy of Georgia will align with Hollywood, Florida-based Kaplan Virtual Education which offers curriculum for traditional online students, along with advanced placement, special needs, medically home-bound, credit recovery and dropout students who are returning to school.
The Provost and Kaplan approvals are contingent on both organizations presenting revised budgets that are in line with the state’s funding formula. Applications submitted by two other proposed virtual schools were denied. A third was withdrawn before the commission hearing.
Online education and charter schools are the future of education choice. Combining them in education that works is the right thing to do. Georgia made the right decision this week when it approved the new Provost and Kaplan schools.
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