Cyber Charter Schools: An Analysis of North Carolina’s Current Charter School Legislation

June 16, 2012

In an era where businesses, industry, and postsecondary institutions recognize the value of and utilize online learning, online education for North Carolina’s public schools may be inevitable. Increasingly, virtual education is seen as “a model for the development of the 21st-century learning skills of working and collaborating with others at a distance.” If North Carolina’s public schools are to educate students so that they will be competitive in a marketplace that values online learning and virtual interaction, the state will need to ensure that its schools at the very least have a virtual component.
This comment examines the possibility and legality of cyber-charters in North Carolina under the state’s current charter school legislation and proposes that North Carolina amend and/or supplement its charter school legislation prior to granting any cyber-charters. This comment: (1) provides a brief history of the development of charter school legislation in the United States and in North Carolina; (2) describes the subsequent national development of cyber-charters and illustrates some of the problems that have arisen when they are opened under “regular” charter school legislation; (3) offers a recent history of online learning developments and considerations in North Carolina; and (4) provides an introductory analysis of North Carolina’s current charter school legislation as applied to cyber-charters, examining how the Charter Schools Act could be amended or supplemented in order to better address the unique nature of cyber-charters.