RIDE has posted two proposals (submitted to them in March) for two virtual high schools which would open in the fall of 2013. These are both independent charters (not mayoral academies).
The Village Green Charter is essentially from Rob Pilkington, a long-time fixture of the RI charter community, who helped start ACE (then Textron/Chamber of Commerce, back in 1995) RINI Middle College and Beacon charter schools. He generally seems harmless. This is in association with Destiny House of Rhode Island.
Then there is the Nowell Leadership Academy, which is sponsored by the YMCA.
Total size of both schools is under 600 and would be spread across several communities, including Providence, so it isn't such a big deal as far as I'm concerned. In both cases, yes, a fair amount of money is going to flow out to for-profit providers, but the scale is pretty small. RIDE and the PPSD have systematically destroyed Providence's neighborhood high schools, so it is hard to argue against the need. Not that it is ok how we got here, but it is where we are.
One thing that bugs me is that the law seems pretty clear to me that the charter is to be held by the non-profit making the application (that is, Destiny House or the Y):
16-77.3-1. Entities eligible to apply to become independent charter schools. – (a) Persons or entities eligible to submit an application to establish an independent charter school shall be limited to:
- Rhode Island nonprofit organizations provided that these nonprofit organizations shall have existed for at least two (2) years and must exist for a substantial reason other than to operate a school; or
- Colleges or universities within the State of Rhode Island.
RIDE apparently has decided that "Entities eligible to apply to become independent charter schools" actually means "Entities eligible to submit applications on behalf of other entities which will be created to form charter schools." In both cases they propose creating a separate non-profit to hold the school charter. Given that I don't really care that much and that they've probably already created at least one school based on this interpretation, I'll probably just leave it at that. It is annoying though.