North Carolina school board approves online charter schools experiment

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina's statewide school board is approving the first online schools run by for-profit companies and with the flexibility that goes with being charter schools.

"I think there should be more choices for parents," said Brier Creek mother Bethany Waylett. "I have two very different girls."

Waylett was one of about a dozen supporters of virtual charter schools listening in as the state Board of Education debated a new pilot program to allow virtual charters to set up shop in North Carolina on a four year pilot test program.

"Our little firecracker is the youngest, and she's going to need a different setting to learn in," said Waylett. "If she had more choices, she'd thrive."

Thursday, in a nearly unanimous vote, the Board of Education gave the green light to two virtual charters to open in the Tar Heel State.
"There is risk," said Board member John Tate.

Tate was one of a handful of board members to challenge the new pilot. He proposed a motion that would have slowed the process down for three months. The motion failed and the board voted overwhelmingly to approve the pilot program.

Still, board member and Superintendent of Schools Dr. June Atkinson said there are real concerns the board needs to be watching for and possibly correcting. Close to the top of the list: The built-in inequality that kids in some parts of the state don't have broadband internet or easy access to the new pilot program. However, Atkinson says there's a far more basic concern to consider.

"That students will not learn," she said. "That students will not have the necessary support."

The board will review the performance of the virtual charters every year of the four year pilot and make changes as necessary.

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