Learning Strategies

LA Charter Taps Private-School Students for Online Program to Boost Enrollment & Funding

Sep 11, 2017

PUBLIC-PRIVATE “PARTNERSHIP”: If you’re paying private-school tuition dollars for your children, how would you feel if they spent two hours a day using an online program created by another entity?

In its bizarrely illuminating investigation, the Los Angeles Times reports that Lennox Virtual Academy, a virtual public school based near Los Angeles International Airport, offered to give free Chromebooks to St. Francis Parish School, a Catholic institution more than 100 miles away. The catch: those students in Bakersfield—with permission from their parents—must enroll in an online program run by Lennox.

As with most bizarre cases, the money trail tells the tale. The story suggests that Lennox, beset by years of declining enrollment, created an online program in 2016 to boost its numbers. Funding data reviewed by the Times suggest the district’s funding “increased by at least $3 million as overall enrollment rose, largely through students signed up for the virtual academy.”

About 400 students from at least three other Catholic schools signed up with Lennox, which also provided a monthly fee for each student enrolled and offered to upgrade their internet networks.

Parents had to share their financial and health information with Lennox, and teachers were supposed to “log on to Acellus Academy, the virtual school’s coursework program, for a set amount of time each day. This allowed Lennox to claim to the state that the students, while going to Catholic school, were enrolled full time in the Lennox Virtual Academy.”

It’s unclear how much online program was used, and to what level of fidelity. “It’s questionable whether such sessions were more than perfunctory,” wrote reporters Anna M. Phillips and Howard Blume, the reporters.

To bend the rules even more:

In an email to state regulators, a Lennox consultant suggested that the district knew it was testing the wall between church and state. He described the Catholic schools as “vendors” that leased property to the Lennox Virtual Academy. Lennox required them, in its contracts, he said, to refrain from offering religious instruction while the Virtual Academy students were working on their “lab sessions.”

St. Francis has since pulled the plug on the partnership.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story listed Lennox Virtual Academy as a "virtual charter school," that has been corrected. 

Learning Strategies

LA Charter Taps Private-School Students for Online Program to Boost Enrollment & Funding

Sep 11, 2017

PUBLIC-PRIVATE “PARTNERSHIP”: If you’re paying private-school tuition dollars for your children, how would you feel if they spent two hours a day using an online program created by another entity?

In its bizarrely illuminating investigation, the Los Angeles Times reports that Lennox Virtual Academy, a virtual public school based near Los Angeles International Airport, offered to give free Chromebooks to St. Francis Parish School, a Catholic institution more than 100 miles away. The catch: those students in Bakersfield—with permission from their parents—must enroll in an online program run by Lennox.

As with most bizarre cases, the money trail tells the tale. The story suggests that Lennox, beset by years of declining enrollment, created an online program in 2016 to boost its numbers. Funding data reviewed by the Times suggest the district’s funding “increased by at least $3 million as overall enrollment rose, largely through students signed up for the virtual academy.”

About 400 students from at least three other Catholic schools signed up with Lennox, which also provided a monthly fee for each student enrolled and offered to upgrade their internet networks.

Parents had to share their financial and health information with Lennox, and teachers were supposed to “log on to Acellus Academy, the virtual school’s coursework program, for a set amount of time each day. This allowed Lennox to claim to the state that the students, while going to Catholic school, were enrolled full time in the Lennox Virtual Academy.”

It’s unclear how much online program was used, and to what level of fidelity. “It’s questionable whether such sessions were more than perfunctory,” wrote reporters Anna M. Phillips and Howard Blume, the reporters.

To bend the rules even more:

In an email to state regulators, a Lennox consultant suggested that the district knew it was testing the wall between church and state. He described the Catholic schools as “vendors” that leased property to the Lennox Virtual Academy. Lennox required them, in its contracts, he said, to refrain from offering religious instruction while the Virtual Academy students were working on their “lab sessions.”

St. Francis has since pulled the plug on the partnership.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story listed Lennox Virtual Academy as a "virtual charter school," that has been corrected. 

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