The online charter school Frontier Virtual Charter High School promised students internship opportunities and language learning when it opened last year.
Yet after the charter school failed this past year to provide students with basic learning tools like computers and Internet, the Pennsylvania Department of Education filed court documents to revoke the charter, Education Week reports. Students were also regularly truant or failing. From the Daily News:
So, when it became clear at the end of the school year that almost all of the school's 85 students were in need of a Hail Mary, Frontier's administrators -- and a handful of part-time replacement teachers -- cobbled together emergency "Save-My-Year" and "Credit Recovery" packets, according to the state documents.
The school board voted unanimously to surrender the school's charter.
This marks the first time the state has tried to pull the plug on a cyber charter, department spokesman Timothy Eller told Education Week.
The failure of the Frontier Virtual Charter High also comes amid national debate over the merits of charter schools and how to reform K-12 education.
Education officials said their investigation of the charter school exposed a litany offenses, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
One Department document read: "Frontier incurred significant expenses and debt that were unrelated to the delivery of services to students of a cyber charter school, including purchases at restaurants, cash withdrawals that were not substantiated with receipts... and local transportation token purchases."
The charter school's decision to shut down was announced by the state secretary of education Ron Tomalis Thursday afternoon, according to CBS Philly.
“Today’s action is in the best interest of students and provides families sufficient time to make other arrangements for the upcoming school year,’’ Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said.
Frontier also owes about $92,000 to K12 Inc., a for-profit online learning company that runs similar virtual schools in 29 other states. The school had reportedly used the company's curriculum until financial problems arose.
But as tax dollars go toward these programs, questions abound surrounding the quality of education provided by these for-profit virtual companies. K12 Inc.'s Ohio Virtual Academy posts a four-year graduation rate of just 30 percent, while its Virtual Academy in Colorado only graduates 12 percent of its students.
During a March investigation into whether the charter school was living up to standards, education department staff were repeatedly denied access to school records and were not permitted to interview school staff, according to a press release on the department website.