The state’s two virtual charter schools[*]
are the most recent type of virtual learning in Michigan. They opened for the
first time in the 2010-2011 school year.
Michigan Connections Academy is authorized under a
charter with Ferris State University and run by Baltimore-based Connections
Academy, a for-profit virtual charter school management company.
Michigan Virtual Charter Academy is chartered by Grand Valley State University
and managed by K12 Inc., a company similar to Connections Academy.
The schools have
central buildings in Okemos and Grand Rapids, respectively. Students may attend
special events there or use the equipment to access their coursework, but their
regular attendance is not required. The two schools use a mixture of
computer-based, Internet-based, remote teacher online, blended learning and
facilitated virtual learning, and they generate the majority of their own
online content.[†] Unlike MVS or most single-district virtual
programs, virtual charter schools must offer courses to any student in the
state, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Each school’s enrollment is limited by state law
to no more than 400 pupils in the 2010-2011 school year. In subsequent years, each
school is limited by law to enrolling no more than 1,000 pupils, with 1,000
students being permitted only if 300 of the enrollees are identified as
Unlike 11 other
states, including Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Michigan had no full-time
virtual charter schools
until the state Legislature passed a package of bills in late 2009 in an effort
to solicit money from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Race to the Top”
program. Funding for Michigan’s virtual charter schools is much simpler than
the system used to fund MVS. As with any other charter school, they will
receive the bulk of their operational funds through the state’s foundation
allowance — i.e., the state’s standard per-pupil funding formula. For the 2010-2011 school year, this will amount to
$7,162 per pupil, though this is subject to legislative change. The new virtual
charter schools will also receive federal and state “categorical” funding,
which is in part tied to the enrolling students’ socio-economic status.
[*] Charter schools are public
schools that have their own board of directors and are authorized to receive
state money by public universities, intermediate school districts, local school
districts or community colleges. These “authorizers” hold the charter schools
accountable through performance-based contracts. Charter schools must also meet
state-defined criteria in order to receive public funds. They may not charge
tuition or deny any student admission if space is available. MCL § 380.501 et
[†] K12 Inc. produces all of its own content (“Curriculum”
(Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, 2010), http://www.k12.com/mvca/curriculum/ (accessed Jan. 11, 2011)). But Connections Academy
partners with a number of different curriculum providers to produce its course
content (“Content Partners” (Connections Academy, 2010), goo.gl/Y0wPE (accessed
Jan. 11, 2011)).
 “Connections Academy Public Cyber School Comes to Michigan
— Approved to Open for 2010-2011 School Year,” eSchool News, June 1, 2010,
goo.gl/qwhVy (accessed June 1, 2010).
 Dave Murray, “GVSU Trustees Approve Michigan Virtual
Charter Academy,” Grand Rapids Press, April 30, 2010, goo.gl/g9Y0S (accessed
April 30, 2010).
 MCL § 380.552(2)(a)-(b).
 MCL § 380.552(2)(d)-(e).
 Watson et al., “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An
Annual Review of Policy and Practice” (Evergreen Education Group, 2010), 32-33,
http://www.kpk12.com/wp-content/uploads/KeepingPaceK12_2010.pdf (accessed Jan.
 Dave Murray, “Should Cyber Charter Schools Get the Same
Per-Student State Aid as Traditional Schools?,” Grand Rapids Press, June 8,
2010, goo.gl/DtTsV (accessed June 8, 2010).