Homeschoolers and Public School Virtual Classes

26 Jun 2015

There has been a lot of confusion about the status of homeschool students who take public school virtual classes. The confusion began when Iredell County began to offer NC virtual classes to homeschool students in 2012, and the confusion increased when NC virtual charter schools began recruiting students for this fall. After consulting with Katie Cornetto (Staff Attorney, State Board of Education), Bill Peaslee (General Counsel, NC Department of Administration) and Connie Joiner (NC Virtual Public School), I have an answer to the question, “Can a student participate in these programs and still be considered a homeschool student?”

NC Virtual Charter Schools
These schools are like brick and mortar charter schools, except all classes are taken online via the Internet. They are chartered by the NC State Board of Education, have a non-profit board of directors independent of the local school district, and they are public schools. NC approved the North Carolina Virtual Academy (with curriculum supplied by the for-profit K-12, Inc) and the North Carolina Connections Academy (with curriculum provided by the for-profit Connections Education, LLC, which is owned by the UK-based Pearson PLC). While K-12, Inc also provides virtual homeschool curriculum, there is no connection between the North Carolina Virtual Academy and homeschooling. Even though they are taking all their classes at home, students in these schools are public school students and can’t be homeschool students for three reasons.

  1. The state provides funding for every student in the virtual charter school. The qualification that allows homeschools to operate as nonpublic schools is stated in Part 2 of article 39 Chapter 115C of the NC statutes. “It receives no funding from the State of North Carolina. (1979, c. 506; 1981, c. 423, s. 1.)”
  2. The scope and sequence of academic instruction is not determined by the student’s parents, legal guardians or member of the household as required by the state definition of homeschool contained in Part 3 of article 39 Chapter 115C of the NC statutes.
  3. There is no provision in NC statutes allowing a student to be dually enrolled as a public school student and as a nonpublic school student.

NC Virtual Public School Classes
These classes were designed for NC public school students, but there is a provision in the statute that allows nonpublic school students to take these courses. Enrollment can be through local school districts that opt to allow for nonpublic school students to enroll for classes, or it can be through the NC Virtual Public School website.

Through Local School Districts
If a homeschool student enrolls in a class through the local school district and wants to maintain his homeschool status, he is limited to one class per semester, and the homeschool must pay the tuition for the class. If the student enrolls in two or more classes through the school district, the tuition for those classes will be paid for by the school district using state per-pupil funds. By receiving funding from the state, the student is enrolled as a public school student.

Through NC Virtual Public School Website
By enrolling for classes via the NC Virtual Public School website, the student can sign up for as many classes as he can handle (normally four classes is considered a full load). The homeschool will pay the tuition for each class the student takes. The new 2013 definition of homeschool now allows the student to take core curriculum.

Community College Dual Enrollment
The question often arises about how homeschool students are allowed to take community college classes tuition free since they are then taking money from the state. Dual enrolment statutes were passed after the nonpublic school statutes were passed, and the dual enrollment funding was specifically designated for all high school juniors and seniors, public and nonpublic students, who qualified for the program.