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School choice advocates spar with Board of Education over online charter school

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TWC News: School choice advocates spar with Board of Education over online charter school
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RALEIGH -- School choice advocates squared off against the N.C. Board of Education Monday, continuing the debate on whether an online charter school program should be allowed in the state.

Back in May an Administrative Law Judge ruled the online school could begin operation in August after the Board of Education declined to act on the matter. They say that ruling wasn't proper procedure and now it's up to a Wake County Superior Court judge to decide.

They're already in a few dozen states across the country and if a prior judge's ruling stands.. an online charter school could be an option for parents and students in the Tar Heel state.

Last year, the Cabarrus County Board of Education approved the school but when the matter came to the North Carolina Board of Education they never responded. It's a move supporters of the online charter school say allows them to move forward.

"The administrative law judge supported this argument, agreed with this argument, and said you know what, state Board of Education you waived your right, you're stopped from raising the issue," said Anna Baird Choi from PublicSchoolOptions.org. "So it's more than dropping the ball, they chose not to act."

But the Board of Education and 90 state school districts opposing the ruling say the school set to open in Cabarrus County would accept students from across the state, which means they need to be a part in the process.

"It's their role and the state board's authority and responsibility to the state of North Carolina to make sure that this system runs as smoothly and as well and everything else as traditional public schools," said Laura Crumpler from the N.C. Department of Justice.

For each registered child, the virtual charter center could receive more than $6,000 in public money, paid for by the state and local school districts. Which is why the state board of education says they need to be involved.

"I think it's critical that the state Board of Education have a decision on this," said Eddie Speas from the N.C. School Board Association. "At this point they did not have the opportunity."

But those hoping to open the virtual school in just two short months say they've already had plenty of time.

"There are children and families that are relying on them to act which they never did in the first place," said Choi.

As designed, the N.C. Virtual Academy would recruit nearly 3,000 students the first year, bringing in more than $16 million in public funding.

Judge Jones will announce his decision in open court on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

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