One of the best public school success stories in recent years has been the North Carolina Virtual Public School. The school, started in 2002, offers public school high school and middle school students the opportunity to enroll in remedial, advanced placement and other courses not offered by the school system. All classes are taught by certified instructors and students enrolling in virtual school courses are charged no tuition. In a few short years NCVPS has grown to become the second largest Virtual Public School in the nation.
Now it seems NCVPS might be a victim of its own success (see N&O article). Higher-than-expected enrollments are contributing to a $3 million shortfall which is only likely to grow. Since NCVPS has exhausted state funding it’s forcing 14 school systems – including Wake County – to limit student enrollment until a funding solution is found. Currently Wake County currently enrolls over 1,000 students in NCVPS. DPI estimates that over 2,100 WCPSS students will be enrolled in NCVPS courses this spring. Last year there were less than 400 students in NCVPS courses.
The popularity of the courses is raising the question: Who will pay for the courses? A typical NCVPS course typically costs about $350. However state funding was based on estimates which are now proving inaccurate. Other questions loom: Will school systems be asked to cover the costs of student who exceed enrollment limits? Can the Department of Public Instruction find additional monies to finance the popular program? Will NCVPS need to re-think policies as to who can enroll in classes?
Virtual Public Schools have been a win-win for Local Education Agencies and students alike. Let’s hope decision makers find a way to allow all students continued access to effective and highly popular type of learning. It’s the wave of the future.
For additional reading on how virtual public schools can transform student learning and public education see: Florida’s Online Option.