January 18, 2013

Operator of Web charter schools gets a bad grade

A Colorado district slams K12 Inc. – which wants to start up in Maine – for its poor academic results.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Kwitowski referred questions about Maine to the Maine Virtual Academy's board. "K12 Inc. respects the independence and autonomy of all the school districts and nonprofit charter boards that govern the schools," he wrote.

Asked for comment, Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said: "The beauty of public charter schools is that you can close them when they are underperforming, something that is much harder to do with public schools."

He said the department was disappointed that Maine Virtual Academy and three other charter school applicants that were rejected by Maine's Charter School Commission last week hadn't had an opportunity to be interviewed by the commission.

"I don't think that anybody said that the commission should have approved these schools, but we wished they had an opportunity for an interview," he said. "It seemed that, with some of them, some pretty minor adjustments could have allowed them to have passed."

Gov. Paul LePage's office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. The governor condemned the charter commission's decisions in two news conferences last week, suggesting it had rejected four of the five applications because of "intimidation" by Maine's teachers union and school superintendents association, and calling for the commissioners to resign.

"I am asking them, for the good of the kids of the state of Maine, please go away," LePage said of the commissioners. "We don't need you. We need some people with backbones."

The president of the Chicago-based National Association of Charter School Authorizers came to the commissioners' defense.

"Those who start a charter school are entrusted with millions of public dollars and with the education, health and safety of other people's children," the association's Greg Richmond wrote in a letter to the editor submitted to the Press Herald. "Such responsibilities should only be given to those who clearly demonstrate the capacity to fulfill them."

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

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