Duval, Orange, Seminole and Volusia schools have gone to court to prevent the online charter schools from opening.
Broward and Palm Beach counties have accepted the state board’s decision.
The Pasco and Marion county school boards debated Florida Virtual Academy applications last month and reached different conclusions.
The Marion County School Board unanimously voted to reject the application, citing concerns about the state investigation of K12.
School Board Chairman Judi Zanetti said Marion County schools already offer three online options, including one provided by K12. State law requires school districts to provide online courses — either their own program or one run by a contractor such as K12.
“Our students are offered several opportunities to participate in virtual school or online learning if that is their choice,” Zanetti said. “I’m not sure what new things this particular charter school would be bringing to us at this time.”
Pasco County school officials saw things differently.
In a review of Florida Virtual Academy’s application, Pasco County schools charter school supervisor Nancy Scowcroft questioned K12’s ties to the nonprofit board overseeing the school.
“There is no clear and convincing evidence that the governing body will have financial authority over the school or be independent from the [Education Service Provider, K12],” Scowcroft wrote. “There is no clear and convincing evidence of an arm’s length relationship between the governing board and the ESP.”
Despite those and other concerns, Scowcroft concluded that the district had no grounds to reject the application under state law. The School Board was scheduled to vote on the application this month.
Columbia University professor Luis Huerta said the connections between for-profit education firms and the nonprofit boards overseeing charter schools are a problem around the country.
Last year, StateImpact Florida and The Miami Herald documented the close relationship between charter school boards and those that profit from the school’s operations.
For example, a school’s founder can also be its landlord and food-service provider. The board approving those contracts may be composed of family or business associates.
“It’s almost a front, if you will, that’s set up,” Huerta said. “Whether there is anything illegal about this is not clear.
“In the interim, we see these enormous accountability abysses.”
There are also unanswered questions about how K12 operates.
Teacher-to-student ratios as high as 275-to-1, according to internal K12 documents obtained by StateImpact Florida and Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that show its pricing plans.
And while there is no state or national standard for online-school class sizes, that ratio is almost twice as high as Florida’s other large online educator: the state-run Florida Virtual School.
After the State Board of Education overruled Seminole County schools’ rejection of a Florida Virtual Academy application, the school district went to court to prevent the online charter school from opening.
While that case is pending in court, K12’s Florida Virtual Academy filed another application in Seminole County.
Now school district officials must decide whether they want to face being overruled by the state again, or reversing their previous decision.