Nevada Connections Academy and Its Families Take Legal Action Against the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority
LAS VEGAS, NV (Oct. 13, 2016) — Today, full-time online school Nevada Connections Academy (NCA) and five of its enrolled families filed a declaratory judgment action against the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority (SPCSA). The petition asks the court to prohibit the SPCSA from pursuing closure of the school, which serves more than 3,000 students in grades Kindergarten-12 across the state.
“I strongly believe in Nevada Connections Academy, what it offers and the option for parents to choose,” Naima Benjelloun, Nevada Connections Academy parent, said. “The school has been a part of us for 10 years. We have tried private school, public school and home school and nothing else has worked for us. My children are strong and confident because of the opportunities Nevada Connections Academy has provided for them, and I am grateful.” Benjelloun has three students currently enrolled in the school and three graduates of the program—two who were able to graduate early.
Since March, Nevada Connections Academy has worked with the SPCSA to develop a comprehensive plan focused on improving its four-year cohort high school graduation rate. This plan was praised and approved by the SPCSA board in May, and Nevada Connections Academy is actively implementing it to effectively increase the school’s graduation rate.
However, during recent contract negotiations, the Authority wanted Nevada Connections Academy to enter into a contract that would block the school’s constitutional right to judicial review— without this fundamental right, the school has no way to protect its students and the school from the overreach of the authority in the future. Nevada Connections Academy, refusing to waive its rights, did not sign the contract; as such, the Authority issued a notice of intent to revoke the school’s written charter on September 23, 2016.
Nevada Connections Academy supports school choices in Nevada and does not want to see quality education programs limited by the overreach of the SPCSA. Forcing the school to waive its constitutional right for judicial review is irresponsible, and not in the best interest of the school or its students.
“Nevada Connections Academy is doing everything the Authority has asked us to do regarding the graduation rate—that is not the issue. We are already implementing the school improvement plan that was not only approved by the Authority, but also received high praise,” said Steve Werlein, Nevada Connections Academy School Leader.
“The true issue is that Authority wants us to irresponsibly waive our constitutional right to judicial review. We need the ability to protect our students from potential future overreach of the Authority, and will aggressively fight to keep the school open for our more than 3,000 students in grades K-12 across the state,” said Laura Granier, Legal Counsel for Nevada Connections Academy.
The school will continue to engage with the Authority and propose viable solutions that satisfy the Authority’s desire for accountability and protects the school’s constitutional rights to judicial review.
About Nevada Connections Academy
Nevada Connections Academy is a tuition-free, high-quality, highly accountable statewide public virtual school serving 3,000 students in grades K-12. Nevada Connections Academy has been providing high-quality, highly accountable virtual schooling to students since receiving approval from the Nevada State Board of Education in 2007. The combination of Nevada-certified teachers, a proven online school curriculum, unique electives, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit www.NevadaConnectionsAcademy.com.
Timeline of Events:
- March 2016— The Nevada State Public Charter School Authority (SPCSA) was considering issuing a “notice of closure” to NCA, but after hearing testimony from NCA parents and administrators, chose not to proceed with the notice but instead directed the school to develop a plan focused on improving its four year cohort high school graduation rate.
- May 2016—NCA presented its high school graduation rate improvement plan to the SPCSA and received great praise from the authority members. At the SPCSA’s request, NCA also worked to identify benchmarks for year to year progress in improving the four year cohort high school graduation rate.
- July 2016—NCA and the SPCSA staff presented the benchmarks for year to year progress at the July authority meeting. The SPCSA also voted to require NCA negotiate a mutually agreeable contract with the authority outlining those benchmarks and accountability measures. Unfortunately, during those negotiations, the SPCSA took the position that NCA must waive its legal right to have court oversight of future authority action on those benchmarks—preventing the school from being able to take legal action against the SPCSA or have a Court review they agency’s decision, if necessary.
- September 2016—When NCA resisted waiving its legal rights to have court oversight of the agency’s actions, the SPCSA voted to issue a “notice of closure.” The Authority made clear this was based solely on the school’s resistance to waive its right to judicial review. NCA will now undergo a formal review that may lead to its closure or reconstitution of the NCA Board. NCA is currently working with its attorney to review its options to determine the best course of action to ensure the SPCSA’s actions do not interfere with NCA continuing operations and educating its students.
- October 2016—NCA and five of its enrolled families filed a declaratory judgment action against the SPCSA. The petition asks the court to prohibit the SPCSA from pursuing closure of the school and mandate the SPSCA comply with its own State Performance Framework and allow NCA to implement the graduation rate improvement plan prepare at the SPSCA’s request.
- Improving the four year cohort graduation rate is an ongoing goal for Nevada Connections Academy and the schools continuously strives for higher achievement. The school is currently implementing its improvement plan that was praised and approved by the Authority.
- The graduation rate for students who are with NCA for their entire high school education is approaching 80%—nearly 80% of the students who entered NCA in 9th grade and stayed with the school all four years graduated on time in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Saying the school does not graduate a majority of our students is misleading and omits important details to the student population NCA is serving.
- Nearly 1/3 of students who did not graduate in 2015 were enrolled less than 1 semester and over 40% were enrolled for less than a year. This means the Authority is holding NCA accountable for the lack of achievement of schools in which these students were previously enrolled – NCA has not yet had the meaningful chance to engage them and show their success.