Online Charter Schools
12:48 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Seven Key Points About K12 Inc And Idaho Virtual Academy

The Bell family in Kuna has converted their living room into a school where the kids attend Idaho Virtual Academy.
The Bell family in Kuna has converted their living room into a school where the kids attend Idaho Virtual Academy.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) is one of Idaho’s 48 charter schools and one of seven online charters run by for-profit companies. As we've reported this week IDVA is Idaho’s largest public school, bigger than most of the state’s school districts. Idaho taxpayers fund it and it’s managed by K-12 Inc. headquartered in Virginia.

But the education provided by K12 Inc. has plenty of critics. Gary Miron is one of them. He is a researcher for the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

“What we’ve found across a wide variety of school measures is that the performance is very weak,” Miron says.

Miron has written several reports critical of K12 and other for-profit online education companies. But unlike most K12 schools he’s studied, Idaho Virtual Academy has test scores and graduation rates on par with state averages. Desiree Laughlin, head of school at Idaho Virtual Academy largely credits that to experience.

“I think one of the reasons that we perform better perhaps than other K12 schools, has to do with just the length of time we’ve been around,” she says.

You can learn more about IDVA here and below you'll find seven important facts regarding Idaho's largest charter school.

1.   Like all Idaho charter schools, IDVA is owned by a local board. The board contracts with K12 Inc. for curriculum, supplies and management. IDVA teachers are employees of the board but managers work for K12 Inc.

2.   For the 2011-2012 school year the state of Idaho gave IDVA $10.9 million dollars which comprises almost all of the school’s budget. IDVA gave K12 Inc. $6.6 million dollars. $700,000 was for Support Services. That includes some advertising and manager salaries. The rest was for instructional expenses, which does not include teacher salaries.

3.   According to a November report in USA Today, K12 Inc. spent nearly $22 million on advertising in the first eight months of 2012, or about $340 per student. K12 vice president Jeff Kwitowski says those numbers are not accurate but would not elaborate.

4.   K12’s revenue increased 35.6 percent in 2012 to $708 million. That’s nearly doubled from 2010.

5.   In January of 2012 a group of K12 shareholders filed a lawsuit against the company claiming it misled investors about student academic achievement. The suit has not been resolved.

6.   There are 33 states with online public schools managed by K12 Inc. Some of those states have multiple K12 schools.

7.   Idaho’s average student teacher ratio is 17 to 1. IDVA’s student teacher ratio is about 67 to 1 in grades k-8 and about 240 to 1 in grades 9-12.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio