I wasn’t at part three of the Skandera confirmation hearings on Saturday. But my colleague Dan Boyd was, and he covered it ably here. But from his coverage, and from my inbox, I can tell that the topic of online charter schools was front and center. I’ve written about this issue here, here, and elsewhere.
The basic quarrel is whether charter schools should be able to contract with for-profit companies to provide fully online curriculum. Opponents of such schools say that New Mexico law does not allow for-profit entities to manage charter schools, and that these online companies are essentially managing the schools. Proponents say the charters are locally managed by their governing boards, and the online companies are just providing curriculum, like any for-profit textbook publisher.
Anyway, this came up at the hearing Saturday, and consequently I have emails from New Mexico’s two all-virtual charter schools, defending their schools against things that were said Saturday. Paul Gessing, of the governing board of New Mexico Connections Academy, posted his response here and sent me the link.
Larry Palmer, of the New Mexico Virtual Academy, sent a press release, which I’ve pasted below. If I hear from advocates or Sen. Ortiz y Pino, I’ll post those as well.
Response to continuing inaccuracies about New Mexico Virtual Academy Governing Council’s contract with its vendor
Farmington, NM –Today during the Rules Committee hearing there was a lot of conversation about the New Mexico Virtual Academy and the contract the Academy has with its educational vendor, K12 Inc. Unfortunately, the questioning from several of the legislators perpetuated inaccurate claims about New Mexico Virtual Academy (NMVA).
The facts are below:
1) Some legislators continued to refer to NMVA as a private school. NMVA is NOT a “private” school. NMVA is a public charter school; all of the students enrolled in this public school are residents of New Mexico. The NMVA received its charter in July of 2012 from the Farmington Municipal Schools District.
2)Some legislators claimed that NMVA is managed by its educational programs vendor K12 Inc. NMVA is NOT managed by K12 Inc. In accordance with the terms of its charter contract with the Farmington Municipal School District and the Charter Schools Act, NMVA is managed and overseen by the school’s governing body – New Mexico Virtual Academy Governing Council. K12 Inc. is a vendor and provides curriculum, technology and academic programs for the school’s teachers and students.
3)Some legislators claimed the NMVA Governing Council was influenced by the educational vendor K12 Inc. The NMVA Governing Council is an independent body; K12 has no role in the school’s governing body or the school’s governance except to provide and coordinate the delivery of the School’s virtual curriculum.
4)Some legislators implied that the monies from the K12 Inc. contract all go “out of state.” This is false. The NMVA teachers are employees of NMVA, highly qualified New Mexico licensed teachers and residents of our state. The head administrator and business manager are also hired by, employed by and report to the NMVA Governing Council.
5) The press release claims the school’s contract with its educational vendor is “illegal.” This is false. The contract between the NMVA’s governing body and its vendor is consistent with state law. The school’s governing body negotiated the contract with its vendor pursuant to the New Mexico Charter School Act and in compliance with the New Mexico Procurement Code. The contract was reviewed and approved by the Farmington Municipal Schools Board of Education. The contract was the result of intensive negotiation between K12 Inc. and NMVA and numerous substantive changes were made at the request of the NMVA Governing Council.
Larry Palmer, President of the Governing Council of the New Mexico Virtual Academy said,
“As I said a couple of weeks ago when we first responded to these false allegations, our new public school is in its first year of operation and is currently serving and meeting the needs of about 500 students in New Mexico.
As President of the NMVA Governing Council I wish to point out that our vendor services agreement contract specifically states that the Governing Council is responsible for overseeing and managing the program’s quality, operational and financial performance and for relations with the Charter Authorizer.
The New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools can verify that the NMVA has a contract with the Coalition for business management services for the school.
Our Governing Council is disappointed that our school continues to be falsely portrayed by members of the legislature that want to distract the public and divert the conversation from talking about what is really in the best interests of students. As we have said since the inception of this program, the New Mexico Virtual Academy offers an important educational option for parents and students that are not being served by the existing traditional educational programs.
Since this issue appears to be of substantive interest to some legislators, it is surprising that none of them nor members of their staffs have contacted any NMVA Governing Council members nor members of NMVA ‘s staff to ask pertinent questions.”