Valley View to Hold Public Meeting on Virtual Charter School Proposal
Education company K12 Inc. wants to partner with a non-profit to bring an online charter school to districts including Plainfield, Oswego and Valley View.
For-profit company K12 Inc. and its non-profit partner, Virtual Learning Solutions, want to bring an online charter school to 18 suburban Chicago school districts, including Valley View, Plainfield and Oswego.
Valley View School District 365U will hold a public meeting March 27 on the application by Virtual Learning Solutions to form the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the VVSD Administration Center, 755 Dalhart Avenue in Romeoville. The public is welcome. Plainfield 202 School District and Oswego School District 308 have already held such meetings.
How it works
K12 representative Todd Thorpe told Plainfield School District 202 that Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox Valley would function much like a public school in that parents would not pay tuition — not directly, anyway.
The online school would be required to admit all students who apply and would use state-certified teachers. Students would have to take the same state tests as District 202 students, and the school would be subject to the same state and federal regulations, Thorpe said.
Everything students need for courses — from a computer, monitor and printer to textbooks and school supplies — would be supplied by Virtual Learning Solutions, according to Thorpe.
Under the proposal, Virtual Learning Solutions would have a contract with K12 to provide the curriculum for the online charter school, which would get a proposed $8,000 per student.
That $8,000 would come from state tax dollars that would be diverted from Valley View's coffers, going instead to Virtual Learning Solutions.
Who would enroll
Thorpe countered that only an estimated .25 to .50 percent of the district’s total enrollment would likely make the switch to the charter school.
“Online education isn’t for everyone,” he said, adding that the virtual school could be a good fit for students who struggle in a traditional classroom setting. “It’s a very small percentage that’s interested in a full-time virtual environment.”
Mike Skarr, vice-president of Virtual Learning Solutions, and Randall Greenway, vice-president of K12, were two representatives for the charter school who spoke at a meeting for the Oswego 308 school district.
“We are doing this because we feel this is good for kids,” said Skarr. “It boils down to a matter of choice. Every parent should have some choice when it comes to their child and their educational experience.”
Criticism and disappointment
Joliet City Councilman Larry Hug said he attended Plainfield 202’s meeting strictly as a parent.
“You’re here to make money,” Hug told Thorpe, comparing the online charter school to a private school like Providence Catholic High School.
“I encourage you to offer the same product at Providence high school on your own dime,” he said. “Stay away from my tax dollars. Our public education is being gutted and you want to gut it more for profit.”
Oswego school board officials said they were disappointed with the lack of information and answers provided by K12 Inc.
“We’re missing significant data that we were promised to get,” said Board president Bill Walsh. “Why didn’t you bring people who could answer questions? It’s very disappointing.”
They asked about how to tell if a teacher is “highly qualified,” how homework is part of an assessment, and questions regarding various incidents and a class-action lawsuit K12 was involved in. They asked about the quality of the education, why Virtual Learning Solutions wanted to come to this area and what the cost would be to District 308 and the other school districts and who in the area had shown support. The board asked for copies of requests, documentation of reports.
K12 officials could not answer many of the questions and said they would try to find the reports and information requested.
“If we don’t ask these questions and don’t get the answers we could be damning these kids,” said board member Dave Behrens. “You’re coming to us and you don’t have answers to these very pointed questions. You can’t treat our kid’s education this way.”
Oswego officials asked about a recent a Nashville-based NBC report alleging that its teachers were being told to delete failing grades.
He called the report a misunderstanding, saying the email conversation at the center of the story was referring to the fact that students can take assessments multiple times.
“The teacher was assigning a grade based on the average” of the students’ scores, Thorpe said.
Thorpe declined to comment on a class-action lawsuit that alleged investors were misled about the company’s business practices and academic performance. K12 agreed to pay $6.75 million to settle the case.
Editor's note: Shannon Antinori and Natalie Stevens contributed to this report.