K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from "Non-Managed" Schools

Submitted by Dustin Beilke on January 7, 2016 – 9:01am

If you were a public school and Wall Street didn’t like you that might not seem like such a big deal. What do financiers know about educating children? It’s a big deal, however, if you are K12, Inc., and enticing investors to buy into your low-cost, high yield "cyber school" idea is key to your bottom line.

At K12, Inc.’s stockholder meeting in December, its own investors criticized the schools’ lamentable academic performance and voted down its executives’ proposed salary increases. This is just the latest piece of bad news, which has been coming in rafts for K12 since 2013.

As K12’s executives were being rebuffed by stockholders inside the law offices of Latham & Watkins, in Washington, D.C., outside K12 was picketed by members of the California Teachers Association for more or less the same list of educational shortcomings, as Diane Ravitch noted.

Some editorial boards crow when they receive criticism from two opposing sides of a controversial issue. "If both sides are unhappy we must be doing something right" is the familiar refrain, as if there are only ever two sides to an issue or the sides have equal merit.

In the case of K12, however, it is hard not to wonder how much longer the company can withstand this loud unanimity of animus–even a firm Wall Street insiders like convicted fraudster Michael Milken helped launch, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in "From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers with Phantom Students and Failing Grades."

No major supporters have yet publicly called for pulling the plug, but anti-public education zealots like the billionaire Walton family and the Koch brothers have plenty of other places to invest in to try to bring down "government schools."

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

In its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, the advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. said K12 exemplifies a "substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results." Glass Lewis gave the company an "F" for how it paid its executives compared to peers.

In 2015, K12 CEO Nathaniel Davis was making $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and $478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their "performance." (See more details on their total compensation in the pdf uploaded below.)

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons CMD has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives</a–<comes from Americans' state or federal tax dollars.

K12 Inc. also pays each member of its Board of Directors between $155,000 and $216,000 annually for a few hours of work each year—far more than local school board members make for much more time spent in general. (See uploaded K12 proxy filings below for the details.)

While K12’s promoters love to mention that it is a publicly traded company, it is also trading at its lowest stock price since 2010, down 75 percent from its September 2013 peak.

Meanwhile, a new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charters do a very poor job of educating children. In general, students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. And there are only 180 days of instruction in most public school years.

Enrollment has also dropped almost 5 percent from its peak. No less a business authority than Bloomberg Business investigative reporter John Hechinger presented grim prospects for K12 as of late 2014, and no one has revised them upward.

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

This decrease in business has come despite massive advertising and marketing expenditures by the virtual schools industry. K12 has spent untold millions in public funds on ads—a luxury budget item that traditional public schools are not permitted even when competing with K12 for students.

It spent at least $20 million on ads in 2012 alone, but it has not publicly disclosed ad spending in recent years even as its ads have become more ubiquitous in markets like Wisconsin and Arizona, for example. K12 does not disclose its ad budget in its public annual report.

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

K12 also spends taxpayer money lobbying state and federal officials. It recently got a seat, for example, on the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where for years it has also paid for a seat and vote on ALEC’s "Education and Workforce Development" Task Force, which advances a "cash for kids" lobbying agenda.

ALEC corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for such access to lawmakers, and K12 has also paid many thousands of dollars to underwrite some of ALEC’s docket of events for legislators and lobbyists.

Through the ALEC Task Force, K12 has actually had an equal vote with state legislators on so-called "model" bills to divert taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools toward the objectives of ALEC’s private sector funders, to help their bottom-lines and/or legislative agenda.

ALEC’s "Virtual Public Schools Act," for example, even allows virtual schools to be paid the same amount per pupil as traditional public schools even though operations like K12 have no bricks and mortar school house or desks or air-conditioning or gyms, etc., to maintain.

As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

"In 2004 when the ‘model’ bill was drafted and approved, both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy were part of the ‘School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force, according to an archived version of ALEC’s website from February 2005. The subcommittee recommended six bills for adoption, including the ‘Virtual Public Schools Act.’ According to ALEC, the bill was drafted by Bryan Flood of K12 along with Mickey Revenaugh of Connections Academy, then-Colorado Representative Don Lee (now a lobbyist for K12, see [below]), ‘and the rest of the Subcommittee.’" (Connections is now part of Pearson PLC, a British mega-corporation headquartered in London.)

K12’s reps at ALEC Education Task Force meetings have been its Senior VP for Government Affairs (lobbying), Bryan Flood, along with its VP for Government Affairs, Don Lee, and its Senior Director of Government Affairs, Bob Fairbank.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is co-chaired by Utah state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-11). Through the ALEC corporate bill mill, Stephenson has even done a roadshow with K12’s Don Lee to drive more business to K12 through legislation. Given his advocacy of efforts to divert tax dollars from traditional public schools to charters and virtual schools, some press in Utah have questioned whether Stephenson is a public servant or a lobbyist for outside interests. (There is no way to independently verify whether Stephenson has actually ever invested in K12 or Pearson, or not.)

Notably, Lee and Fairbank are both former Colorado state legislators who took the revolving door out of public service into well-paid gigs, like peddling what K12 is selling to legislatures across the country. And, the head of their lobbying shop, Flood, is the former flack for then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who is now pulling down big bucks for sitting on K12’s Board of Directors: $55,000 in cash plus $100,000 in K12 stock for a few hours of his time last year.

Making "Friends" Everywhere K12 Goes….

Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin are not the only states where K12 is active and facing criticism. The "Ohio Virtual Academy," for example, which accounted for 10 percent of K12’s revenue in 2014, received failing grades on a state report card for student test-score progress and graduation rates. A state analysis found that only 37 percent of K12’s Ohio ninth graders earned diplomas within four years.

K12’s operations in California have produced similar results, as In the Public Interest (ITPI) has documented, despite K12’s efforts to blame the state. (CMD has partnered with ITPI on research previously.)

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12, and in Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman called for shuttering the Tennessee Virtual Academy because it had test results "in the bottom of the bottom tier" and is an "abject failure."

Altogether, K12 has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also ruled last April that prospective students from 24 K12 Inc. high schools can no longer count credits toward athletic scholarships.

A pro-union decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board no doubt came as more bad news for K12’s brass. The board ruled that the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the exclusive bargaining agent of the more than 750 teachers at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA). Teachers have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for CAVA’s 15,000 students.

CAVA teachers had been calling for improvements for years. In March 2015 a study of CAVA by ITPI called for better oversight. In June 2015, CTA filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California.

K12 Hoping "Non-Managed" Schools Will Save It?

While no one is publicly calling for K12 to shut down, K12 itself is "diversifying its portfolio" in an apparent effort to ease out of the online charter school business.

K12 has built its brand by operating "managed schools" in which K12 runs and profits from all of the programs at a particular K12 school. In a managed school, the company does all of the teaching, curriculum, assessment for the customers—er, students—who choose it over attending a public school or participating in a traditional home-schooling arrangement.

The new revenue stream K12 is pioneering is in what it is now calling "non-managed schools" in which K12 sells the digital content and platform for a school for some other company or entity to run (and be responsible for the results). Non-managed programs have been growing by leaps and bounds as managed virtual schools have fallen on hard times.

The only problem with this model is that managed schools still bring in much more money than the non-managed kind. Some managed schools, for example, bring in $1,849 per student while non-managed schools bring in only $462 per pupil on average.

But, getting some revenue without being responsible for results may be the way for the future of K12: an analysis of K12 figures comparing September 2015 to the prior year showed that enrollment at "managed" virtual schools was declining 12 percent while it is increasing 34.5 percent at "non-managed" schools.

Non-management could take profiting from taking money out of traditional public schools without real accountability to a new level for K12.

CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this report.

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K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from “Non-Managed” Schools

By Dustin Beilke on January 7, 2016 – 9:01am





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If you were a public school and Wall Street didn’t like you that might not seem like such a big deal. What do financiers know about educating children? It’s a big deal, however, if you are K12, Inc., and enticing investors to buy into your low-cost, high yield “cyber school” idea is key to your bottom line.

At K12, Inc.’s stockholder meeting in December, its own investors criticized the schools’ lamentable academic performance and voted down its executives’ proposed salary increases. This is just the latest piece of bad news, which has been coming in rafts for K12 since 2013.

As K12’s executives were being rebuffed by stockholders inside the law offices of Latham & Watkins, in Washington, D.C., outside K12 was picketed by members of the California Teachers Association for more or less the same list of educational shortcomings, as Diane Ravitch noted.

Some editorial boards crow when they receive criticism from two opposing sides of a controversial issue. “If both sides are unhappy we must be doing something right” is the familiar refrain, as if there are only ever two sides to an issue or the sides have equal merit.

In the case of K12, however, it is hard not to wonder how much longer the company can withstand this loud unanimity of animus–even a firm Wall Street insiders like convicted fraudster Michael Milken helped launch, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in “From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers with Phantom Students and Failing Grades.”

No major supporters have yet publicly called for pulling the plug, but anti-public education zealots like the billionaire Walton family and the Koch brothers have plenty of other places to invest in to try to bring down “government schools.”

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

In its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, the advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. said K12 exemplifies a “substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results.” Glass Lewis gave the company an “F” for how it paid its executives compared to peers.

In 2015, K12 CEO Nathaniel Davis was making $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and 478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their “performance.” (See more details on their total compensation in the pdf uploaded below.)

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons CMD has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives–come from Americans’ state or federal tax dollars.

K12 Inc. also pays each member of its Board of Directors between $155,000 and $216,000 annually for a few hours of work each year—far more than local school board members make for much more time spent in general. (See uploaded K12 proxy filings below for the details.)

While K12’s promoters love to mention that it is a publicly traded company, it is also trading at its lowest stock price since 2010, down 75 percent from its September 2013 peak.

Meanwhile, a new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charters do a very poor job of educating children. In general, students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. And there are only 180 days of instruction in most public school years.

Enrollment has also dropped almost 5 percent from its peak. No less a business authority than Bloomberg Business investigative reporter John Hechinger presented grim prospects for K12 as of late 2014, and no one has revised them upward.

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

This decrease in business has come despite massive advertising and marketing expenditures by the virtual schools industry. K12 has spent untold millions in public funds on ads—a luxury budget item that traditional public schools are not permitted even when competing with K12 for students.

It spent at least $20 million on ads in 2012 alone, but it has not publicly disclosed ad spending in recent years even as its ads have become more ubiquitous in markets like Wisconsin and Arizona, for example. K12 does not disclose its ad budget in its public annual report.

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

K12 also spends taxpayer money lobbying state and federal officials. It recently got a seat, for example, on the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where for years it has also paid for a seat and vote on ALEC’s “Education and Workforce Development” Task Force, which advances a “cash for kids” lobbying agenda.

ALEC corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for such access to lawmakers, and K12 has also paid many thousands of dollars to underwrite some of ALEC’s docket of events for legislators and lobbyists.

Through the ALEC Task Force, K12 has actually had an equal vote with state legislators on so-called “model” bills to divert taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools toward the objectives of ALEC’s private sector funders, to help their bottom-lines and/or legislative agenda.

ALEC’s “Virtual Public Schools Act,” for example, even allows virtual schools to be paid the same amount per pupil as traditional public schools even though operations like K12 have no bricks and mortar school house or desks or air-conditioning or gyms, etc., to maintain.

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As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

“In 2004 when the ‘model’ bill was drafted and approved, both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy were part of the ‘School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force, according to an archived version of ALEC’s website from February 2005. The subcommittee recommended six bills for adoption, including the ‘Virtual Public Schools Act.’ According to ALEC, the bill was drafted by Bryan Flood of K12 along with Mickey Revenaugh of Connections Academy, then-Colorado Representative Don Lee (now a lobbyist for K12, see [below]), ‘and the rest of the Subcommittee.'” (Connections is now part of Pearson PLC, a British mega-corporation headquartered in London.)

K12’s reps at ALEC Education Task Force meetings have been its Senior VP for Government Affairs (lobbying), Bryan Flood, along with its VP for Government Affairs, Don Lee, and its Senior Director of Government Affairs, Bob Fairbank.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is co-chaired by Utah state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-11). Through the ALEC corporate bill mill, Stephenson has even done a roadshow with K12’s Don Lee to drive more business to K12 through legislation. Given his advocacy of efforts to divert tax dollars from traditional public schools to charters and virtual schools, some press in Utah have questioned whether Stephenson is a public servant or a lobbyist for outside interests. (There is no way to independently verify whether Stephenson has actually ever invested in K12 or Pearson, or not.)

Notably, Lee and Fairbank are both former Colorado state legislators who took the revolving door out of public service into well-paid gigs, like peddling what K12 is selling to legislatures across the country. And, the head of their lobbying shop, Flood, is the former flack for then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who is now pulling down big bucks for sitting on K12’s Board of Directors: $55,000 in cash plus $100,000 in K12 stock for a few hours of his time last year.

Making “Friends” Everywhere K12 Goes….

Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin are not the only states where K12 is active and facing criticism. The “Ohio Virtual Academy,” for example, which accounted for 10 percent of K12’s revenue in 2014, received failing grades on a state report card for student test-score progress and graduation rates. A state analysis found that only 37 percent of K12’s Ohio ninth graders earned diplomas within four years.

K12’s operations in California have produced similar results, as In the Public Interest (ITPI) has documented, despite K12’s efforts to blame the state. (CMD has partnered with ITPI on research previously.)

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12, and in Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman called for shuttering the Tennessee Virtual Academy because it had test results “in the bottom of the bottom tier” and is an “abject failure.”

Altogether, K12 has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also ruled last April that prospective students from 24 K12 Inc. high schools can no longer count credits toward athletic scholarships.

A pro-union decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board no doubt came as more bad news for K12’s brass. The board ruled that the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the exclusive bargaining agent of the more than 750 teachers at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA). Teachers have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for CAVA’s 15,000 students.

CAVA teachers had been calling for improvements for years. In March 2015 a study of CAVA by ITPI called for better oversight. In June 2015, CTA filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California.

K12 Hoping “Non-Managed” Schools Will Save It?

While no one is publicly calling for K12 to shut down, K12 itself is “diversifying its portfolio” in an apparent effort to ease out of the online charter school business.

K12 has built its brand by operating “managed schools” in which K12 runs and profits from all of the programs at a particular K12 school. In a managed school, the company does all of the teaching, curriculum, assessment for the customers—er, students—who choose it over attending a public school or participating in a traditional home-schooling arrangement.

The new revenue stream K12 is pioneering is in what it is now calling “non-managed schools” in which K12 sells the digital content and platform for a school for some other company or entity to run (and be responsible for the results). Non-managed programs have been growing by leaps and bounds as managed virtual schools have fallen on hard times.

The only problem with this model is that managed schools still bring in much more money than the non-managed kind. Some managed schools, for example, bring in $1,849 per student while non-managed schools bring in only $462 per pupil on average.

But, getting some revenue without being responsible for results may be the way for the future of K12: an analysis of K12 figures comparing September 2015 to the prior year showed that enrollment at “managed” virtual schools was declining 12 percent while it is increasing 34.5 percent at “non-managed” schools.

Non-management could take profiting from taking money out of traditional public schools without real accountability to a new level for K12.


CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this report.

Attachment Size
Attachment Size
End of Year 2015 Proxy Statement with Exec Compensation for K12 1.13 MB
Dustin Beilke

Dustin Beilke is a freelance writer from Madison, WI. He has written for a number of publications, including Newsday, Salon.com, The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, Mother Jones, The Capital Times, and The Onion.

.

Peter Greene writes that Maryland’s new Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, wrote charter legislation to make more charters with minimal regulation, accountability or transparency.


 


His “bill would let charters hire and fire staff at will (Maryland’s charter teachers are actually employed by the local district). Teachers wouldn’t have to be certified. Charters would have more ability to pick and choose students. Charters would get more money per student and also get a shot at construction funding. Perhaps most importantly, charters would finally have a recourse if mean old local school boards turned them down; they would be able to appeal to the State Board of Education to override the decision of local elected officials.”


 


The Democratic-controlled legislature had qualms about unleashing free-market charters. It substantially watered down Hogan’s bill. The pro-privatization Center for Education Reform was very upset.


 


Even better, the legislature eliminated Hogan’s wish to authorize online charter schools in Maryland. This is a top priority for ALEC, as it allows for-profit corporations like K12 (which is active in ALEC) to make big money while producing poor results for students. Studies by CREDO in Pennsylvania (comparing public schools, charter schools, and virtual charter schools, of which the last was the worst) and by the National Education Policy Center, as well as investigations by the Bloomberg News, the New York Times and the Washington Post have found online charters to have terrible outcomes (low test scores, low graduation rates, high dropout rates). Yet every one of the privatization organizations quoted in this article bemoans the legislature’s failure to siphon money off to the for-profit, low-performing sector of virtual charters.


 


Score one for public education.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1QTBqeE

Ruth Conniff of “The Progressive” reports that the FBI is becoming more assertive in its investigation of criminal behavior by charter schools. Charter schools receive millions of dollars of public money with minimal accountability. In some states, they have gone to court to fight public audits, claiming that the schools are public but the organization running them is a private corporation.


Conniff reports: “From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.”


She adds:


“Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.


“One target, covered in an August 12 story in The Atlantic, is the secretive Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who runs the largest charter-school chain in the United States.


“The Atlantic felt compelled to note, repeatedly, that it would be xenophobic to single out the Gulen schools and their mysterious Muslim founder for lack of transparency and the misuse of public funds.


“It isn’t the Gulen movement that makes Gulen charters so secretive,” writes The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp, “it’s the charter movement itself.”


“Kristen Buras, associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, agrees.


“Originally, charter schools were conceived as a way to improve public education,” Buras says. “Over time, however, the charter school movement has developed into a money-making venture.”


“Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.”


And more:


“”Education entrepreneurs and private charter school operators could care less about innovation,” says Buras. “Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on-the-cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities.”


“Rebecca Fox Blair, a teacher who helped to found a small, alternative high school program in Monona, Wisconsin, says she was struck by the massive change in the charter school movement when she attended a national charter school conference recently.


“It’s all these huge operators, and they look down on schools like ours,” she says. “They call us the ‘mom and pop’ schools.”


“There are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States — a more than 50 percent increase since 2008.


“Over that same period, “nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed,” writes Stan Karp, an editor of Rethinking Schools. “This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded but privately managed charter sector.”


“And all that money has attracted some unscrupulous operators.”


One big-time operator is K12, whose CEO was paid over $4 million last year. K12 is active in the corporate-advocacy group ALEC. The corporation, listed on the New York stock exchange, was founded by the Milken brothers.


ALEC added K12 to its corporate board of directors just before its national convention in Dallas at the end of July.


At the Dallas meeting, ALEC also trumpeted the launch of a new charter school working group. Among the measures the group discussed:


* Legislation to exempt charter school teachers from state teacher certification requirements, and allow for charter schools to be their own local education authority.


* A bill to give charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease all or part of unused public school properties at or below market value, and avoid taxes and fees.


* A controversial measure proposed by Scott Walker in Wisconsin to create a statewide charter school authorizing board, bypassing local authority over charter schools, even as charters drain funds from local districts.”


In addition to the investigations cited by Conniff, the FBI raided the offices of The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, whose CEO was eventually indicted for numerous violations of the law.


Also, June Brown, the founder of the Agora charter school in Pennsylvania, was investigated by the FBI, indicted, and charged along with other executives for the theft of $6.7 million from three charter schools. When she was tried, the jury cleared her on some counts, deadlocked on others, and federal prosecutors vowed to retry her. A local newspaper reported on the trial:


“Two of Brown’s co-defendants pleaded guilty before the trial, while two others were acquitted…..


“The case is the fifth federal prosecution of local charter school operators in seven years, raising questions about the regulation of the growing charter school movement.


“Before 2008, Brown collected full-time salaries as the chief executive officer of three charter schools she founded. In addition, two management firms she owned collected millions in fees for services to the Agora Cyber Charter School, which she also established.


“Prosecutors charged that Brown provided little or no services to Agora in return for the money.


“Neither Brown nor her co-defendants testified in the case. Defense attorneys argued that the charter schools achieved excellent outcomes for students and that Brown’s compensation, while perhaps generous, was not illegal. They also argued that prosecutors had not proved that June and other officials had falsified documents to cover up financial fraud.


“Several witnesses testified that forged signatures and fabricated documents were used to support Brown’s claims for compensation.”
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1vwUaYb

This prize-winning story by investigative reporter Colin Woodard follows the money trail in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage seeks to make a name for himself in the world of digital learning. It was originally published two years ago, but remains relevant. Woodard dug through more than 1,000 documents that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and his story won the George Polk award.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog » K12 Inc. http://ift.tt/1mLqCAR

This prize-winning story by investigative reporter Colin Woodard follows the money trail in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage seeks to make a name for himself in the world of digital learning. It was originally published two years ago, but remains relevant. Woodard dug through more than 1,000 documents that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and his story won the George Polk award.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1mLqCAR

Bill Moyers on ALEC | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Diane Ravitch's blog

Diane Ravitch's blog[1]

A site to discuss better education for all

Because I was traveling in Texas over the weekend, I didn’t see Bill Moyers’ report on ALEC. I watched it last night,[2] and I hope you will too.

If you want to understand how we are losing our democracy, watch this program.

If you want to know why so many states are passing copycat legislation to suppress voters’ rights, to eliminate collective bargaining, to encourage online schooling, to privatize public education, watch this program.

ALEC brings together lobbyists for major corporations and elected state officials in luxurious resorts. In its seminars, the legislators learn how to advance corporate-sponsored, free-market ideas in their state. Its model legislation is introduced in state after state, often with minimal or no changes in the wording.

Watch Moyers show how Tennessee adopted ALEC’s online school bill and how Arizona is almost a wholly owned ALEC state. Watch how Scott Walker followed the ALEC template.

Moyers could do an entire special on ALEC’s education bills[3]. ALEC promotes the parent trigger, so that parents can be tricked into handing their public schools over to charter chains. ALEC promotes gubernatorial commissions with the power to over-ride the decisions of local school boards to open more charters. ALEC promotes vouchers. ALEC, as he noted, promotes virtual charter schools (Pearson’s Connections Academy and K12 wrote the ALEC model law). ALEC has model legislations for vouchers for students with special needs. ALEC has a model law to allow people to teach without credentials. ALEC has legislation to eliminate tenure protection. ALEC has model legislation for educator evaluation.

It is all so familiar, isn’t it?

ALEC wants nothing less than to privatize public education, to eliminate unions, and to dismantle the education profession.

Florida Republicans, aided by three rogue Democrats, rammed through voucher legislation in the closing day of the legislative session.


The vouchers are supposedly for the benefit of children with special needs.


The Republican legislators’ alleged concern for children with special needs is especially hypocritical in view of their failure to act on the Ethan Rediske legislation, would have exempted children in extreme medical distress to be exempted from state testing by local officials.


As we have seen time and again (and as ALEC urges), legislation for vouchers is targeted to children with special needs as a way to promote vouchers. Thus, children with special needs are cynically used by rightwing legislators whose real goal is to destroy public education.


**************************


This from a reader in Florida:


 


This skullduggery just in from the last hours of the spring legislative session in Florida’s right wing Republican-controlled Legislature:


Tampa Bay Times, May 2, 2014: Lawmakers revive, then approve school voucher expansion


Quote:


TALLAHASSEE — A surprise procedural maneuver Friday helped Florida lawmakers pass one of the most controversial bills of the session.


Both the House and Senate gave final approval to a bill that would expand the school voucher program and create new scholarships for special-needs children.


The proposal will now head to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it.


School choice advocates celebrated bill’s passage — an unexpected end to a roller-coaster session.


—–


Joanne McCall, vice president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said she was disappointed. “The members of FEA are chagrined by the continued march to expand voucher schools that are largely unregulated, don’t have to follow the state’s academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely,” she said.


McCall said it was “especially galling that the voucher expansion was tacked on to an unrelated bill on the final day of the session.”


—–


“Public schools should not have a monopoly,” Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said in debate. “We have choices in everything else.”


——-end quote


http://ift.tt/1sgfpJG


With this development, Jeb Bush must be gleefully rubbing his hands together.


Just as certain as many people here in Florida were, that then-Governor Jeb Bush would leave no stone unturned in jamming his brother into the White House, many of us KNEW that these radical Republicans in Tallahassee would force this thievery of public education resources into law.


God willing, we will flush Rick Scott and as many of these thieves running the Florida legislature as we can this November, along with their micromanaging mentor, Jeb Bush.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1sgfpJO

Seth Sandronsky, a journalist in Sacramento, reports here on some extraordinary political activities in that city that should raise eyebrows. Maybe even some hackles.


Read Sandronsky to learn about State Senator Ron Calderon, his brother Thomas Calderon, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, ALEC, the Walton Family Foundation, Pearson, Connections Academy, the Sacramento Bee, and various other characters eager to reform our schools.


I would summarize, but this web is too tangled for me.


Since some readers had trouble opening the link, here is how the story begins:


Papering Over Public K-12 School Reform


By Seth Sandronsky


Private interests are busy paying for political favors from lawmakers at the state Capitol in California, writes Dan Morain, a columnist with The Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/13/5905448/dan-morain-the-investigation-into.html

According to him, what we know about Sen. Ron Calderon, a pro-business Democrat representing Montebello, and snared in an FBI sting operation recently, is just the tip of the dollars-and-politics iceberg.


The good senator has ample company, Morain continues. He mentions other actors and forces in the fetid pay-to-play of California state politics.


Yet his column omits the donor role of a leading public K-12 school reform group under the state Capitol dome. What is going on?

Al Jazeera America’s Oct. 31 unveiling of an FBI affidavit that alleges Sen. Calderon’s multiple alleged wrongdoings includes his brother Thomas Calderon’s meeting with star education reformer Michelle Rhee’s lobbyists. Her StudentsFirst group operates from a national headquarters in Sacramento.


The affidavit alleges that StudentsFirst lobbyists met with Sen. Calderon’s brother on Feb. 20. On Feb. 21, Sen. Calderon introduced a teacher-reform measure, Senate Bill 441 that Rhee’s group supports: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/sen/sb_0401-0450/sb_441_cfa_20130423_084911_sen_comm.html


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Rhee’s husband and never a classroom teacher, backed Sen. Calderon’s SB 441, which failed to pass out of committee. The mayor’s education non-profit, Stand Up for Great Schools, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the big-box retailer, also supported SB 441, which teacher unions opposed.


As Trevor Aaronson of Al Jazeera America reports: “Ronald Calderon’s push for the education bill came after Rhee’s organization provided critical financial support to the political campaign of his nephew Ian Calderon. In May 2012, state records show, StudentsFirst funneled $378,196 through a political action committee to Ian Calderon’s successful campaign for the California Assembly”:


http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/31/national-educationreformadvocatesoughtcalderonasinfluence.html


Rhee’s donation to Ian Calderon represents just over eight percent of StudentsFirst $4.6 million of donations to its 501(c)(4) nonprofit. That figure comes from its Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service, for the tax year ending July 31, 2011.

Operating in 34 states now, the IRS allows 501(c)(4) groups to engage in political activity such as lobbying: “Seeking legislation germane to the organization’s programs (as) a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes.” Oh, and the donor names to StudentsFirst’s 501(c)(4) are secret.


One of the states where StudentsFirst operates is Tennessee. There, Rhee’s ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, is a GOP governor’s appointed state head of public schools.


StudentsFirst’s political donations have swayed lawmakers to evaluate teachers based on their pupils’ standardized test scores: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode/ This policy fits with American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation for education reform.


Back in the Golden State, SB 441 was a bid to amend the state Education Code. Accordingly, Sen. Calderon’s bill would have potentially changed the education of 6 million kids attending California’s public K-12 schools.


Comparing ALEC’s “Teacher Evaluations and Licensing Act,” part of its “Indiana Education Reform Package,” approved at the 2011 ALEC yearly meeting: http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/indiana-education-reform-package/ ( “chapter 3″ of an omnibus bill) with Sen. Calderon’s SB 441, one sees similar phrases and words. As we know, ALEC is pushing forward across the U.S. with public K-12 school reform bills, using language that corporate lobbyists write and lawmakers vote on.


We turn to Connections Academy, a for-profit online learning enterprise that began in Houston, Texas. Once upon a time, this company co-led ALEC’s education task force.


Enter Pearson, Inc., a $7 billion publicly traded, global firm that profits shareholders through certifying teachers, grading standardized tests, publishing textbooks and providing digital curriculum on iPads. Pearson Connections in August 2011. Connections left ALEC soon after, said Brandon Pinette of Pearson in an email.


However, the state bills that Connections, the second largest online school company nationwide to K12 Inc., supported on ALEC’s education task force are still operative, said Rebekah Wilce, a researcher and reporter for the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy. K12 Inc., the biggest cyber school firm and formerly owned by Kaplan, Inc., the giant test preparation company, remains a member of the ALEC education task force, according to her.


Meanwhile, The Sacramento Bee financially backs Mayor Johnson’s nonprofit St. HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Excellence ) Development Company: http://www.sthope.org/fund-1.html. Johnson’s nonprofit, with help from the local school board and billionaire philanthropists such as Eli Broad, converted Sacramento High School to a nonunion charter school after pupils’ scores on high-stakes standardized tests fell in 2003.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/06/sandronsky-political-favors-cronyism-and-cash-in-sacramento/

A North Carolina Appeals Court turned down K12, the publicly traded corporation that operates virtual charters.


It wanted to open a virtual charter in the state, but the State Board of Education did not act on its request, so it was denied.


K12 sued, and for now, has lost.


When the Legislature goes back into session, we will see whether the rejection sticks.


K12 has a history of astute lobbying and strategic political contributions.


K12 gets very poor marks from researchers and poor results, but that never stands in the way of its expansion.


Besides, the expansion of online charters is a priority for ALEC.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/04/north-carolina-appeals-court-says-no-to-for-profit-virtual-k12-corporation/