2 Indiana Virtual Schools Closing This Year and Next
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Two schools that have come to represent all that can possibly go wrong with virtual public school education are set to close. According to reporting by Chalkbeat, Indiana Virtual School will cease to operate after September; and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy will close at the end of the next school year.
The decision shouldn't be a surprise. Lately, Indiana lawmakers have been trying to get the state's virtual schools under control by setting new rules for how they operate.
A notice on the Indiana Virtual School website said that "pursuant to an agreement" between the school and its charter authorizer, Daleville Community Schools," it would "terminate operations," as of September 17, 2019.
The school also directed online visitors to "consider applying" to its "sister institution," Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy as an alternative. But that virtual school included a similar warning message, this one encouraging people to enroll their students before September 13, 2019. After that, it announced, by agreement with its authorizer, the Daleville district, it would be unable to accept applications or enroll students and would stop providing instruction altogether after June 30, 2020.
According to Chalkbeat, the schools had enrolled over 7,000 students at the start of the previous school year, with thousands more already on their rosters. For example, Indiana Virtual School had some 10,000 students during the last school year. However, according to district analysis, just one in 10 students (about 850) stayed for the entire year; yet of those who remained, 729 earned no credits during the first semester; and 523 earned none during the second semester. Those were the kinds of details that finally pushed Daleville's school board to begin the work of revoking the schools' charters.
The state estimated that the two schools received some $80 million in public funding between 2016 and 2018. Because they failed to file yearly audits, it's "unclear" how the money was spent. Chalkbeat said the state was auditing the schools' finances, and a full audit would be issued in the future.
Members of the board have also put Daleville in its sights. The district collected an estimated $2.4 million during that three-year period in "fees," tied to its work of overseeing the schools. As the board's chairman, B.J. Watts, told Chalkbeat reporter Stephanie Wang, "Ultimately, the responsibility falls on Daleville, 100 percent... They’re not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They’re being paid for oversight."
At a recent meeting the State Board of Education considered a recommendation to "recover" overpayment of funds distributed to both charter schools and the authorizing district. All three entities are fighting the proposal.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.