A virtual charter school that wanted to expand to Indiana using its model of offering parents money to buy school supplies has withdrawn its request for a charter authorizer.
Colearn Academy, an Arizona-based virtual school, applied earlier this year to open a school in Indiana, offering three learning paths and the ability for parents to purchase their own curriculum and activities with annual stipends of $600.
But as reported by Chalkbeat, offering families such an inducement to enroll is illegal in Indiana. This year, lawmakers expanded the ban on the practice to include “any item that has monetary value, including cash or a gift card.”
The school withdrew its request this month following a hearing in September which garnered 177 answers from the public to find out if it should open. About 88% of these responses were negative.
Home-schooling advocates had expressed concern that the school was trying to lure home-schooled families into the program with the promise of monetary assistance, but that those families would lose the educational freedom that they had researched into home schooling by enrolling in a charter school.
Michael Staton, one of Colearn’s founders, did not respond to a request for comment on whether the school would try again in Indiana. A website for Colearn Academy Indiana remains online, with an option to join a waitlist.
The school had sought permission from Education One, the charter licensing arm of Trine University in Angola, Indiana.
Lindsay Omlor, executive director of charter schools for Education One, also did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2020, Chalkbeat reported on another virtual school, Tech Trep Academy, which first offered money, then points, to parents to order educational materials like textbooks, Netflix and educational toys.
Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at [email protected]