2 online schools in enrollment dispute shutting down

By The Associated Press

DALEVILLE — A lawyer for two Indiana online charter schools accused of inflating their enrollments says they have essentially shut down and need money to help students transfer since state funding has been cut off.

Attorney Mary Jane Lapointe also is arguing that Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy didn't inflate enrollment figures, despite state audit findings that prompted the funding halt . The state Department of Education is seeking to recover more than $47 million from the schools.

The superintendent of the two online schools, Percy Clark, other administrators and nearly 40 teachers may have received their final paycheck last week.

"I believe, outside of Dr. Clark, we have no staff right now," Lapointe said Monday night at a meeting of the Daleville School Board, which authorized both schools under state law.

Lapointe asked the Daleville board for up to $50,000 a month so the online schools can pay a vendor and staff to produce student transcripts, which are needed for them to receive course credits at other schools.

She spoke during a hearing ahead of a next week expected vote by the Daleville board to revoke the online schools' operating charters. A state audit found that more than half of the schools' some 7,000 students weren't active in any classes for at least six months during the 2017 calendar year.

Lapointe argued the board is acting too quickly on charter revocation. She gave board members new documents created by the schools' enrollment vendor, blaming the enrollment dispute on the differences between virtual and traditional schools.

"There were no overpayments. In fact, there were no miscalculations. None," Lapointe told the board. "In fact, there were always more students enrolled then they were getting paid for."

Daleville Superintendent Paul Garrison said Lapointe didn't offer any understandable explanation.

"Our information came directly from state reports that the two virtual schools turned into the Department of Education," Garrison said.

The final audit results will go to the state attorney general's office to possibly seek money from the schools and to county prosecutors if suspected criminal wrongdoing is found. The Indiana investigation comes as similar enrollment inflation cases have happened in Ohio, Oklahoma and California.

Becky and Brad Gregory said their daughter was transferring from Indiana Virtual School to Muncie Central High School, but the online school's transcript vendor wouldn't provide her records because it hadn't been paid. They have little hope their daughter will receive credit for the five semesters of work, much of it advanced placement, that she completed the online school.

"Indiana Virtual was in it for the money. It's obvious they got caught and are trying to wiggle out of it," Brad Gregory said. "I don't see why they would keep giving them money."

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