New Jersey Does Not Want and Cannot Afford Nationally Discredited Virtual Charter Schools

Save Our Schools NJ opposes the introduction of virtual charter schools into our state for the following reasons:

1). Virtual charter schools have an abysmal performance record.

‘There’s a pretty large gap between virtual and brick-and-mortar [schools],’ said Gary Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement and research at Western Michigan University” and a co-author of a national study of virtual charter schools.

“About 116,000 students were educated in 93 virtual schools — those where instruction is entirely or mainly provided over the Internet — run by private management companies in the 2010-11 school year.

About 27 percent of these schools achieved “adequate yearly progress,” the key federal standard set forth under the No Child Left Behind act to measure academic progress. By comparison, nearly 52 percent of all privately managed brick-and-mortar schools reached that goal, a figure comparable to all public schools nationally.”

Closer to home, a “Stanford University group, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, tracked students in eight virtual schools in Pennsylvania .. comparing them with similar students in regular schools. The study found that “in every subgroup, with significant effects, cyber charter performance is lower.”

Devora Davis, the center’s research manager, said the group’s analysis of Pennsylvania online schools showed that students were slipping. “If they were paired with a traditional public schools student, the public school student kept their place in line, and the cyberstudent moved back five spots,” she said.

2). Virtual charter schools exploit children and taxpayers in order to make money for the for-profit firms that run them

“It’s a promising business.

The largest for-profit virtual charter chain, K12, had revenue of $522 million in 2010, “a 36 percent increase from the prior year, according to securities filings.”

Former Goldman Sachs banker and K12’s founder and CEO Ronald Packard “earned $2.6 million in total compensation.”

This past year, Packard almost doubled his compensation to $5 million.

K12’s academic performance, however, is much less impressive.

“At the Colorado Virtual Academy, which is managed by K12 and has more than 5,000 students, the on-time graduation rate was 12 percent in 2010, compared with 72 percent statewide.

That same year, K12’s Ohio Virtual Academy — whose enrollment tops 9,000 — had a 30 percent on-time graduation rate, compared with a state average of 78 percent.

Last year, about one-third of K12-managed schools met the achievement goals required under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University professor who called that performance “poor.” also is being sued by its own investors who allege “that defendants misrepresented and/or failed to disclose materially adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations and prospects.

3). Chris Cerf, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, has acted outside the law in granting conditional charters to five virtual charter schools.

New Jersey’s charter school law requires
that schools have buildings where children are educated, prohibiting virtual charter schools.

If granted final charter by Acting Commissioner Cerf, these five virtual charter schools are scheduled to begin operations in September 2012. Four of these schools would rely on the discredited for-profit firm K12 for content.

One of the five conditionally approved virtual charter schools, the NJ Virtual Academy Charter School, would use K12 for both content and management.

In fact, documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Request, suggest that this nonprofit charter school is a shell game for the for-profit K12, to enable the company to circumvent New Jersey’s charter school law, which prohibits for-profit charter schools.

4). New Jersey school districts and taxpayers will pay exorbitant amounts for this academically failed but very profitable model

Virtual charter schools in New Jersey would be reimbursed at the same rate as brick and mortar charter schools, at 90% of a district’s average per pupil spending. Statewide, this is approximately $15,000 in taxpayer funding coming out of a sending school district’s budget for each student a virtual charter school enrolls.

Since virtual education costs a tiny fraction of what a brick and mortar school costs, this reimbursement level will be very profitable for K12 and the other for-profit companies lining up to benefit at the taxpayer’s expense.

New Jersey school districts would lose the same level of funding when students currently being home-schooled decide to attend a virtual charter school, with no corresponding cost reductions whatsoever.

This has already happened in some districts, which have been notified that parents of home-schooled children, who are being actively recruited by the NJ Virtual Academy Charter School, have signed them up for the 2012-13 academic year.

Please help us stop this scam from coming to New Jersey.

Sign our petition and let policy makers know you do not want virtual charter schools exploiting our children and our tax dollars.

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