State picks first virtual charter-school operator

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The Hoosier Academies will start up the state's first virtual charter program later this month, the Indiana Department of Education announced today.

The state Legislature has promised to pay 80 percent of tuition for as many as 200 students, in first through fifth grades, to enroll with Hoosier Academies but take all their courses over the Internet.

Hoosier Academies already offers a mix of in-class and online instruction to their 600 students in Indianapolis and Muncie. The school's campuses operate as charters, which are state-funded but freed from some of the regulations traditional public schools must follow.

IBJ reported on July 20 that Hoosier Academies was the leading candidate to operate as the state's first virtual charter school, but that state officials were waiting for a decision by Ball State University to amend the school's charter status to allow for online-only instruction.

But the Education Department decided to move forward without any amendment to the Hoosier Academies' charter. Ball State is not sponsoring the virtual school that Hoosier Academies will operate although it continues to sponsor two other charter schools Hoosier Academies already operates.

Only Ball State and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard have the authority to create charter schools.

"Parents are looking for options that best meet their students' individual needs," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, in a prepared statement.

In 2007, Ball State drew fire for granting charter status to two startup online schools. Many legislators objected, questioning the quality of online education and saying it was unclear whether virtual charter schools should receive as much per-student funding as other state-supported schools do.

The Legislature denied funding to virtual charters for two years. As a result, Indiana Virtual Charter School in Indianapolis and Indiana Connections Academy in Muncie, which had enrolled a total of 2,200 students, never opened.

This year, the Legislature agreed to a limited two-year pilot program, which must focus on students who have medical disabilities or who live in remote areas, but it can also accept students who deem the virtual charter "a better alternative" to a traditional public school.

The Hoosier Academies are managed by Lynn Black, an employee of Virginia-based K12 Inc., a publicly traded education business with nearly $300 million in revenue. Before joining K12, Black was an education consultant and a public school principal in Indiana.

Hoosier Academies will offer 40 slots each in grades one through five. Next year, enrollment could expand to 500 students, but the Education Department might also add a second operator to the program.

Bennett promised to hold the Hoosier Academies Virtual Pilot School "accountable" to document attendance of its virtual students, to make its teachers accessible for immediate communication and to provide testing sites for the ISTEP test that are no more than 50 miles away from its students homes.

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.