A network of online charter schools tied to a company under investigation by the Florida Department of Education won a split decision from Florida school districts Tuesday.
School boards in Orange and Seminole counties rejected Florida Virtual Academy for the second time. But the Pinellas County school board approved the application despite concerns the school’s curriculum is outdated.
The Florida Virtual Academy network will be run by K12 Inc, the nation’s largest online educator. The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether the company used teachers who were not properly certified to teach online courses and then asked teachers to cover it up.
The Florida Virtual Academy has applied to open at least 10 schools across Florida, but many school districts are saying no to the applications.
Orange County and Seminole County schools have gone to court to prevent the Florida Virtual Academies from opening.
School board members in those two counties said they already offer online classes, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“We have our own Seminole County virtual school that is thriving,” board member Sylvia Pond said. “I don’t see the need for another.”
The charter school board’s lawyer, Brady Cobb, said Orange County should “follow the law” and approve the charter because it has chosen a state-approved provider of virtual education. But Board Chairman Bill Sublette disagreed.
“The argument is being made that this is a charade, that we have to approve their application because the curriculum has been approved by the state,” said Sublette, who voted against the application.
In Pinellas County, school board members approved the application so they could maintain at least some control. From the Tampa Bay Times:
Most board members agreed that they would rather approve the application than risk losing their power over the school if Florida Virtual Academy appealed to the state, which in the past has approved charters that school districts have rejected.
District staff members now will hammer out a charter agreement with the school. If that agreement is approved by the board, then the school can open.
“We need to be part of the conversation,” said board member Carol Cook.