Online schools: Susan Bonilla shelves bill after interest groups water it down

Former California Virtual Academies student Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, plays a video game on her laptop in her home in San Francisco on.
Dai Sugano — Bay Area News Group

By Jessica Calefati, Bay Area News Group

Posted:
08/30/16, 8:09 PM PDT

Updated: 4 hrs ago

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California Virtual Academies teacher Julianne Knapp teaches her students during her online class on at a public library in San Jose.
Dai Sugano — Bay Area News Group

SACRAMENTO >> Legislation that originally sought to ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide management or instructional services stalled Wednesday in the state Senate almost two weeks after the author substantially amended and watered down the measure.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Concord Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to the Mercury News’ investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.

The legislation cleared the Senate Education Committee in June on a party line 6-2 vote after a spirited debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

But substantial opposition from the company whose operations she sought to rein in and disagreement between the state’s largest teachers union and an influential charter schools advocacy group about the bill’s goals forced Bonilla to modify its language, removing all references to rules for online schools.

In an interview Tuesday, Bonilla said she carried the bill to ensure that public money for schools is used to educate students, not to enrich corporate shareholders. She said she also had hoped the legislation would boost online schools’ accountability. In the end, however, even the stripped-down version drew unexpected opposition from a school employees union and Republican lawmakers and had to be shelved.

“The bill started out targeting online charter schools because that is where we have witnessed this problem most,” said Bonilla, who is leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits. But “as we delved deeper into the details, it became apparent that because of the complex structures of these organizations, getting to the bad actors would be challenging.”

The newspaper’s stories revealed that K12 reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The two-part series also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

In the months since the newspaper published its findings, state Controller Betty Yee launched an audit of the K12-managed California Virtual Academies. And following a probe by the state Attorney General’s Office, K12 agreed to a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

A spokesman for K12 could not be reached for comment on Bonilla’s decision to shelve AB 1084. But an analysis of the legislation prepared by Senate staff members shows the company didn’t oppose the latest version of the measure, which would have required all charter schools to operate as nonprofits.

The reason is that since K12 is technically a “vendor” of the schools it controls, its operations in California wouldn’t have been impacted by the measure at all.

In the weeks since the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on the bill, Bonilla had been working closely with the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association to craft bill language that satisfied both powerful interest groups. And although the groups agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state, they disagreed on strategy.

“We tried for weeks to negotiate something with Ms. Bonilla,” said Jed Wallace, the charter group’s executive director. “What we were trying to do was related, but different.”

The union wanted to keep Bonilla’s original concept of a broad ban. But the charter group supported a more “surgical approach” that would have prohibited companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barred them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limited the number of teachers the firm could employ or manage directly.

The version of the legislation Bonilla abandoned Wednesday was the result of “compromise” between the two groups, she said, adding that she hopes another lawmaker committed to charter school accountability picks up next year where she left off.

“(My work) sets a firm baseline from which to pursue further legislative fixes in the future,” Bonilla said.

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Online schools: Bay Area Assemblywoman shelves bill after interest groups water it down

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
08/31/2016 04:29:04 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — Legislation that originally sought to ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide management or instructional services stalled Wednesday in the state Senate almost two weeks after the author substantially amended and watered down the measure.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Concord Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.

The legislation cleared the Senate Education Committee in June on a party line 6-2 vote after a spirited debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

File photo: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Concord Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc. (Bay Area News Group archives)

But substantial opposition from the company whose operations she sought to rein in and disagreement between the state’s largest teachers union and an influential charter schools advocacy group about the bill’s goals forced Bonilla to modify its language, removing all references to rules for online schools.

In an interview Tuesday, Bonilla said she carried the bill to ensure that public money for schools is used to educate students, not to enrich corporate shareholders. She said she also had hoped the legislation would boost online schools’ accountability. In the end, however, even the stripped-down version drew unexpected opposition from a school employees union and Republican lawmakers and had to be shelved.

“The bill started out targeting online charter schools because that is where we have witnessed this problem most,” said Bonilla, who is leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits. But “as we delved deeper into the details, it became apparent that because of the complex structures of these organizations, getting to the bad actors would be challenging.”

The newspaper’s stories revealed that K12 reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The two-part series also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

In the months since the newspaper published its findings, state Controller Betty Yee launched an audit of the K12-managed California Virtual Academies. And following a probe by the state attorney general’s office, K12 agreed to a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

A spokesman for K12 could not be reached for comment on Bonilla’s decision to shelve AB 1084. But an analysis of the legislation prepared by Senate staff shows the company didn’t oppose the latest version of the measure, which would have required all charter schools to operate as nonprofits.

The reason is that since K12 is technically a “vendor” of the schools it controls, its operations in California wouldn’t have been impacted by the measure at all.

In the weeks since the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on the bill, Bonilla had been working closely with the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association to craft bill language that satisfied both powerful interest groups. And although the groups agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state, they disagreed on strategy.

“We tried for weeks to negotiate something with Ms. Bonilla,” said Jed Wallace, the charter group’s executive director. “What we were trying to do was related but different.”

The union wanted to keep Bonilla’s original concept of a broad ban. But the charter group supported a more “surgical approach” that would have prohibited companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barred them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limited the number of teachers the firm could employ or manage directly.

The version of the legislation Bonilla abandoned Wednesday was the result of “compromise” between the two groups, she said, adding that she hopes another lawmaker committed to charter school accountability picks up next year where she left off.

“(My work) sets a firm baseline from which to pursue further legislative fixes in the future,” Bonilla said.

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

California Virtual Academies: Bill targeting for-profit operator K12 Inc. clears first committee vote

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
06/30/2016 05:42:09 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday on a party-line 6-2 vote after a divisive debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.

File photo:Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.
(Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group archives)

The stories revealed that the company reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The two-part series also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

Lawmakers’ efforts a few years ago to crack down on for-profit colleges and universities sent several of the chains into bankruptcy, and if AB 1084 is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, it would effectively put companies like K12 out of business in the Golden State, too.

Bonilla, D-Concord, says that’s fine with her.

“What my bill says is ‘Let’s just agree they don’t belong here in California,’ ” because allowing online charter schools to contract with for-profit companies creates “a perverse incentive for schools to prioritize profits over students,” said Bonilla, who referenced the newspaper’s findings in her remarks to the committee.

But parents couldn’t disagree more about whether companies like K12 should be allowed to operate charter schools in California, and a lobbyist for K12 and two other firms insisted they’re being singled out unfairly.

Two mothers who support the legislation testified that the law is needed to force schools controlled by for-profit companies to re-evaluate their priorities and begin emphasizing student achievement above all else, including profit margins and shareholder whims.

“Help us transform California Virtual Academies from an enrollment factory that piles up the money into a place that supports teachers, parents and students,” said Stacey Preach, who lives in the Sacramento area. She worked for K12’s network of online schools and briefly enrolled her child in one of them.

Opponents of the measure, including Virginia Shemansky, who lives in Leona Valley, said signing the bill into law would force some schools to close, squash parental choice and limit the ability of schools that remain open to serve troubled students who need services only specialized for-profits can provide.

“Sacramento’s special interest groups are playing politics with our students,” said Shemansky, a member of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, which advocates for access to online schools managed by K12 and its leading competitor, Connections Academy. “Parents are demanding that the assault on parent choice stop.”

Several parents and teachers who watched the hearing stood up to endorse the bill, but no parents seated in the audience spoke against it.

Before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill will have to be approved by the full Senate, the Assembly Education Committee and the full Assembly.

The committee’s vote comes a few days after state Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson commissioned state Controller Betty Yee to audit the K12-managed California Virtual Academies and several weeks after a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for the state auditor to do a separate probe of for-profit charter schools.

The company is also being investigated by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who launched an investigation of online charter schools last fall.

A spokesman for K12 couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the vote.

Branche Jones, a lobbyist for K12, testified at the hearing that the intense scrutiny the company is facing is unfair because statements made about its practices and track record by Bonilla and this newspaper are incorrect. The company, however, has never disputed the factual accuracy of the newspaper’s investigative series.

“There are low-performing schools across the whole state,” Jones said, adding that it’s not fair “to focus on one industry.”

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he voted against the bill because he doesn’t believe a “one-size-fits-all approach” is the right way to address a problem that may not apply to all online charters contracting with for-profit companies. Huff said he had visited a successful online charter school dedicated to helping dropouts earn enough credits to graduate and didn’t want to see it adversely affected by the bill.

Representatives of the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association — two powerful interest groups that oppose one another most of the time — said they agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state. But Rand Martin, a lobbyist for the charter school group, testified that the association opposes the bill unless Bonilla adopts a more “surgical approach” to the problem and agrees to a series of amendments it has proposed.

Instead of broadly banning online charter schools from hiring for-profit companies for instructional services, the association wants to create a “firewall” between charter schools and for-profit vendors by prohibiting the companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barring them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limiting the number of teachers the firm could employ directly.

Still, Martin said, the organization supports the spirit of the legislation.

“We actually agree with the objective of the author,” Martin said. “We should not have a for-profit operating a charter school.”

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

AB-1084 Charter schools: for-profit entities.

Bill Start

Amended
 IN 
Senate
 June 06, 2016
Amended
 IN 
Assembly
 January 04, 2016

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE—
2015–2016 REGULAR SESSION


Assembly Bill
No. 1084
Introduced by Assembly Member Bonilla
February 27, 2015

An act to amend Section 4996.18 of the Business and Professions add Section 47604.2 to the Education Code, relating to social workers. charter schools.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 1084, as amended, Bonilla.
Social workers: examination. Charter schools: for-profit entities.

Existing law, the Charter Schools Act of 1992, authorizes a charter school to elect to operate as, or be operated by, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, as specified.

This bill, commencing with the 2017–18 school year and each school year thereafter, would do both of the following: (1) prohibit a virtual or online charter school, as defined, from being owned or operated by, or operated as, a for-profit entity; and (2) prohibit a nonprofit online charter school, nonprofit charter virtual academy, and a nonprofit entity that operates an online or virtual charter school from contracting with a for-profit entity for the provision of instructional services.

The Clinical Social Worker Practice Act provides for the licensure and regulation of clinical social workers by the Board of Behavioral Sciences within the Department of Consumer Affairs. The act requires an applicant for licensure to, among other things, have at least 3,200 hours of post-master’s degree supervised experience providing social work services. The act requires an applicant who possesses a master’s degree from a school or department of social work that is a candidate for accreditation by a specified accrediting body, to register with the board as an associate clinical social worker in order to gain the required experience in social work services; however, the act prohibits that applicant from being eligible for examination for licensure until the school or department of social work receives
accreditation. On and after January 1, 2016, an applicant for licensure under the act is required to pass 2 examinations, a California law and ethics examination and a clinical examination.

This bill would, instead, prohibit an applicant who possesses a master’s degree from a school or department of social work that is a candidate for accreditation, from taking only the clinical examination until the school or department receives the accreditation.

Digest Key

Vote:
MAJORITY  
Appropriation:
  
Fiscal Committee:
YESNO  
Local Program:
  

Bill Text

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1.

 Section 47604.2 is added to the Education Code, to read:

47604.2. Notwithstanding any other law, commencing with the 2017–18 school year, and each school year thereafter:

(a) A virtual or online charter school shall not be owned or operated by, or operated as, a for-profit entity. For purposes of this section, “virtual or online charter school” means a charter school in which at least 80 percent of teaching and pupil interaction occurs via the Internet.

(b) A nonprofit online charter school, nonprofit charter virtual academy, or a nonprofit entity that operates an online or virtual charter school shall not contract with a for-profit entity for the provision of instructional services.

SECTION 1.Section 4996.18 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read:4996.18.

(a)A person who wishes to be credited with experience toward licensure requirements shall register with the board as an associate clinical social worker prior to obtaining that experience. The application shall be made on a form prescribed by the board.

(b)An applicant for registration shall satisfy the following requirements:

(1)Possess a master’s degree from an accredited school or department of social work.

(2)Have committed no crimes or acts constituting grounds for denial of licensure under Section 480.

(3)Commencing January 1, 2014, have completed training
or coursework, which may be embedded within more than one course, in California law and professional ethics for clinical social workers, including instruction in all of the following areas of study:

(A)Contemporary professional ethics and statutes, regulations, and court decisions that delineate the scope of practice of clinical social work.

(B)The therapeutic, clinical, and practical considerations involved in the legal and ethical practice of clinical social work, including, but not limited to, family law.

(C)The current legal patterns and trends in the mental health professions.

(D)The psychotherapist-patient privilege, confidentiality, dangerous patients, and the treatment of minors with and without parental consent.

(E)A recognition and exploration of the relationship between a practitioner’s sense of self and human values, and his or her professional behavior and ethics.

(F)Differences in legal and ethical standards for different types of work settings.

(G)Licensing law and process.

(c)An applicant who possesses a master’s degree from a school or department of social work that is a candidate for accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education shall be eligible, and shall be required, to register as an associate clinical social worker in order to gain experience toward licensure if the applicant has not committed any crimes or acts that constitute grounds for denial of licensure under Section 480. That applicant shall not,
however, be eligible to take the clinical examination until the school or department of social work has received accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education.

(d)All applicants and registrants shall be at all times under the supervision of a supervisor who shall be responsible for ensuring that the extent, kind, and quality of counseling performed is consistent with the training and experience of the person being supervised, and who shall be responsible to the board for compliance with all laws, rules, and regulations governing the practice of clinical social work.

(e)Any experience obtained under the supervision of a spouse or relative by
blood or marriage shall not be credited toward the required hours of supervised experience. Any experience obtained under the supervision of a supervisor with whom the applicant has a personal relationship that undermines the authority or effectiveness of the supervision shall not be credited toward the required hours of supervised experience.

(f)An applicant who possesses a master’s degree from an accredited school or department of social work shall be able to apply experience the applicant obtained during the time the accredited school or department was in candidacy status by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education toward the licensure requirements, if the experience meets the requirements of Section 4996.23. This subdivision shall apply retroactively to persons who possess a master’s degree from an accredited school or department of social work and who obtained experience during the time the accredited school
or department was in candidacy status by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education.

(g)An applicant for registration or licensure trained in an educational institution outside the United States shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that he or she possesses a master’s of social work degree that is equivalent to a master’s degree issued from a school or department of social work that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education. These applicants shall provide the board with a comprehensive evaluation of the degree and shall provide any other documentation the board deems necessary. The board has the authority to make the final determination as to whether a degree meets all requirements, including, but not limited to, course requirements regardless of evaluation or accreditation.

(h)A registrant
shall not provide clinical social work services to the public for a fee, monetary or otherwise, except as an employee.

(i)A registrant shall inform each client or patient prior to performing any professional services that he or she is unlicensed and is under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Thank you, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, for writing a bill to ban for-profit operators of virtual schools.

The bill, Assembly Bill 1084, “would prevent charter schools that do more than 80 percent of their teaching online from being operated by for-profit companies or hiring them to facilitate instruction. If passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislation would effectively put companies like K12 out of business in the Golden State.

“Our taxpayer dollars should be spent in the classroom to help our students, not used to enrich a company’s shareholders or drive up its profits,” Bonilla said in an interview.

But K12 spokesman Mike Kraft railed against the proposal, calling it “another cynical effort to take away the rights of parents to choose the way their kids are educated.”

How cynical are those “special interests” who want to take away K12 Inc.’s ability to profit while providing inferior education!?

That company is K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia firm that allows students who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto its software to be counted as “present,” as it reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students. Students who live almost anywhere south of Humboldt County may sign up for one of the company’s schools.

Assemblywoman Bonilla was acting in response to a brilliant series of articles by Jessica Calefati in the San Jose Mercury News, exposing the profitable but educationally bankrupt K12 Inc., the corporation founded by the Milken brothers and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

I hope Assemblywoman Bonilla and the media will review the abundant research on K12 Inc, such as the Credo study or the NEPC study. What she will learn is that students in online charter schools lose ground and fall behind their peers in real schools.

If California chooses to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on bad schools to enrich the stockholders and the Milken family, shame on the legislators and the governor.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

http://ift.tt/1UowL7f

California ‘virtual’ academies: Bill targets for-profit operator K12 Inc.

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
06/10/2016 05:42:47 PM PDT |Updated:   about 22 hours ago

Related Stories

SACRAMENTO — Online charter schools would be prohibited from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services under a new bill that the author says is a direct response to this newspaper’s investigation of the company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies.

That company is K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia firm that allows students who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto its software to be counted as “present,” as it reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students. Students who live almost anywhere south of Humboldt County may sign up for one of the company’s schools.

File photo:Former California Virtual Academies student Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, plays a video game on her laptop in her San Francisco home on Feb. 18, 2016. (Dai Sugano/Staff archives)

Assembly Bill 1084, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would prevent charter schools that do more than 80 percent of their teaching online from being operated by for-profit companies or hiring them to facilitate instruction. If passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislation would effectively put companies like K12 out of business in the Golden State.

“Our taxpayer dollars should be spent in the classroom to help our students, not used to enrich a company’s shareholders or drive up its profits,” Bonilla said in an interview.

But K12 spokesman Mike Kraft railed against the proposal, calling it “another cynical effort to take away the rights of parents to choose the way their kids are educated.”

“This bill is nothing more than a PR effort designed to appease big money special interests that hide in the shadows, harming California families,” Kraft wrote in an email, alluding to the support teachers unions have given to similar legislation in the past.

“Today, more than 14,000 California children attend virtual public charter schools, many in the Assemblymember’s own district,” Kraft added. “How many of their families has she spoken with before deciding to try to take away their choice?”

Before the newspaper’s two-part investigative series was published in April, Bonilla said, she didn’t know how wide the achievement gap was between students enrolled in K12’s California Virtual Academies and those who attend other public schools. But the more she learned about the company’s track record, the more she felt motivated to act.

The series highlighted research that shows online schools’ hands-off learning model isn’t appropriate for most children and found that accountability for student performance is sorely lacking. In fact, the districts tasked with overseeing K12’s California schools have a strong financial incentive to turn a blind eye to problems because they receive a cut of California Virtual Academies’ revenue to oversee them.

The stories also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

Earlier this month, another bipartisan group of lawmakers responded to the newspaper’s findings by calling for a wide-ranging state audit of for-profit charter schools.

“We’re already more than half way through the legislative session, so I knew we had to act quickly,” Bonilla said. “This bill is focused, targeted and designed to get through the legislative process this year.”

Because deadlines for introducing new legislation have already passed, Bonilla had to “gut and amend” another bill so that her new measure could move forward as soon as possible.

For the measure to advance, it must be approved by the Senate Education Committee before lawmakers break for the summer in early July. After they return in August, the bill would need to clear a floor vote in the Senate, a policy committee in the Assembly and an Assembly floor vote within a matter of weeks.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, authored similar legislation last year, but Brown rejected Assembly Bill 787, writing in his veto message: “I don’t believe the case has been made to eliminate for-profit charter schools in California.”

The governor went on to state that “the somewhat ambiguous terms used in this bill could be interpreted to restrict the ability of nonprofit charter schools to continue using for-profit vendors” such as textbook publishers or transportation providers.

Bonilla said she doesn’t know if Brown will support AB1084 — he typically doesn’t reveal his views on pending legislation before squashing it or signing it into law. But Bonilla said she attempted to address the governor’s concern about ambiguity by specifying in her bill that online charter schools can’t hire for-profit companies for instructional services. So the schools could still contract with publishers and private transportation companies.

“Profit doesn’t belong in public education, and taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent on for-profit instruction,” said Bonilla, who will be termed out in December. “This has been going on here for years, and it has to stop.”

To reach the governor’s desk by the end of August, AB1084 will likely need support from powerful interest groups such as the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association. The CTA sponsored Hernandez’s bill, and while spokeswoman Claudia Briggs said the union would need more time to review Bonilla’s bill before taking a formal position, she said it sounded like “a bill we could get behind.”

Emily Bertelli, a California Charter Schools Association spokeswoman, has previously said the organization would support legislation that bans for-profit companies such as K12 from operating charter schools.

Asked to comment on AB1084, Colin Miller, the association’s acting senior vice president for government affairs, said the group is still evaluating the impact of the proposal’s language.

“The association has been committed to operational transparency, authorizer accountability and quality academic performance for all charter schools,” Miller said. “But we also want to ensure that optimal flexibility is maintained. We hope to work with the author to find the right solution.”

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

Jessica Calefati of the San Jose Mercury-News wrote a shocking series about the online charter schools of K12 Inc., which have the lowest graduation rate in the state, and which counts students “present” if they log on for only one minute.

Millions of public dollars fund the California Virtual Academies (CAVA), which operates for profit and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company, founded by Michael and Lowell Milken, delivers a substandard education. It should be closely supervised or shut down.

Unfortunately, as Calefati discovered, the legislature is moving at a snail’s pace to authorize an audit of CAVA. Nothing seems to be happening. Much clucking of tongues, but no action.

CAVA is the lowest performing school in the state. Why hasn’t it been shut down long ago? If you recall, K12’s online charter in Tennessee was the lowest performing school in the state, and not even the State Commissioner Kevin Huffman was able to get it closed. Why?

Governor Brown likes charters. When he was mayor of Oakland, he opened two charters. The legislature has been unwilling to stand up to the rich and powerful California Charter Schools Association. CCSA should be demanding close scrutiny of CAVA, whose tactics embarrasses all charter schools. Their silence is deafening.

When the legislature dared to pass a bill banning for-profit charters, Governor Brown vetoed it. He also vetoed a bill to require charter schools to ban conflicts of interest.

So California has a greedy, rapacious charter industry, whose growth will continue unchecked until public schools enroll only students the charters don’t want. Fraud, waste, and abuse in the charter industry will grow without oversight. Conflicts of interest and nepotism will proliferate. Charters will continue to be run by entrepreneurs and speculators.

Does anyone think these developments are “reform”? From a distance, they look like graft and corruption.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

http://ift.tt/25EPCSG

K12 Inc.: Bay Area lawmakers call for audit of California Virtual Academies operator

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
05/31/2016 05:08:41 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling for a state audit of a profitable but low-performing network of online charter schools following this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the Virginia company at the heart of the operation.

Published last month, the two-part series revealed that the Wall Street-traded company reaps tens of millions of dollars in state funding while graduating fewer than half of the students enrolled in its high schools. It also found that teachers at K12’s California Virtual Academies have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine how much state funding the schools receive.

California Virtual Academies teacher Julianne Knapp teaches her students during her online class on Nov. 18, 2015, at a public library in San Jose. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
(
Dai Sugano
)

Assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, say an audit is needed because the Legislature takes allegations of misspent public money seriously — and that any company profiting while students struggle deserves intense scrutiny. Lawmakers say its findings would likely set the stage for legislation aimed at addressing the problems at online schools.

“This reporting raises serious questions that demand a more thorough investigation, which is why I will work with my colleagues to pursue an audit of for-profit charter schools and the mechanisms in place to hold them accountable,” said Ting, who is joining with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and other Assembly members to craft the audit request.

Nationally, 70 percent of students enrolled in online charters attend schools managed by for-profit companies such as K12 and its leading competitor, Connections Academy, while 30 percent attend charters that are independent or run by nonprofits.

Sacramento lawmakers aren’t the only ones troubled by K12’s track record. Tom Torlakson, California’s superintendent of public instruction, vowed last week to collaborate with the legislators on possible fixes.

“I am concerned by some issues and practices exposed in this article,” Torlakson said. “I am exploring options to investigate laws and regulations governing these types of charter schools and will work closely with legislators interested in this subject.”

But coming up with solutions to such politically charged problems won’t be easy.

Gov. Jerry Brown is a strong supporter of charter schools and has already vetoed bills that sought to force all charters to comply with conflict-of-interest and transparency rules and ban for-profit companies from operating them. And earlier this year, two bills that would have addressed some of the problems highlighted in this newspaper’s series stalled under pressure from interest groups.

The newspaper’s investigation found that students who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged on to K12’s school software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate state funding. The investigation also revealed that the districts tasked with overseeing K12’s California schools have a strong financial incentive to turn a blind eye to problems because they receive a cut of California Virtual Academies’ revenue to oversee the schools, which now enroll about 15,000 students.

“Taking the bull by the horns and regulating these irresponsible for-profit companies shouldn’t be a wild idea,” said Bruce Fuller, an education policy professor at UC Berkeley. “If nothing happens and K12 faces no consequences, the company stands to poison the legitimacy of the whole (charter) movement.”

Asked about the possible audit, K12 spokesman Mike Kraft did not comment. But he argued in an email that a student logged onto the company’s software for a minute would not result in additional state funding for K12 without a determination by the student’s teacher that he or she had completed required work.

“In other words, a log on alone — regardless of duration — would not be submitted by CAVA (California Virtual Academies) nor be eligible for funding,” Kraft wrote.

Any bill that creates a new rule for charter schools will require Brown’s support. But a group of Assembly Democrats hope the weight of a Joint Legislative Audit Committee’s findings is what’s needed to draft something the governor finds “palatable,” said John Casey, a spokesman for Rendon, D-Paramount.

Members of the upper and lower house who sit on the committee meet several times a year to consider lawmakers’ audit requests. Once those requests are approved, they’re transferred to California State Auditor Elaine Howle, who is currently working on more than a dozen committee requests. Typically, audits take several months to complete.

“As a parent of school-age children and education advocate, I don’t see any integrity in counting a student who has logged in to an online class for as little as one minute as ‘present’ for instructional purposes or for calculating attendance funding,” said Assemblywoman Baker, the Bay Area’s lone GOP lawmaker.

Drafting legislation that the powerful California Charter Schools Association and California Teachers Association can both support will be another big hurdle to regulating schools run by companies like K12.

In March, Assemblywoman Patty López, D-San Fernando, introduced Assembly Bill 2242, which would have banned for-profit corporations such as K12 from operating charter schools. But the bill also sought to block charters from being part of a network that allows them to share administrators and pool resources to purchase curriculum, banning a structure used today by nearly half the state’s charter schools.

Lopez soon abandoned the bill after charter advocates flooded her district office with letters and calls urging her to drop it.

“After hearing many concerns from families in my district, many of them that I personally know, I have made a decision to not move forward with AB 2242 in the form that it is today,” López said in a statement. “My intent with the bill was not to harm charter schools, but to bring transparency when it comes to public funding.”

The California Charter Schools Association would support legislation that bans for-profit companies like K12 from operating charter schools, but so far no bills have been introduced that deal strictly with that topic, spokeswoman Emily Bertelli said.

Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Walnut Creek, encountered equally passionate opposition to Senate Bill 1434, which sought to impose new restrictions on the school districts that review prospective charter schools’ applications and oversee them once they open their doors.

Glazer’s bill, which was sponsored by the California Charter Schools Association, would have required all school districts that authorize charter schools to annually submit financial statements to the charters, showing how they spent the oversight fees collected. Once the California Teachers Association voiced numerous concerns with the sweeping proposal, which the union detailed in a lengthy April letter addressed to Glazer, the measure stalled before being heard by the Senate Education Committee.

K12’s critics such as Diane Ravitch — a New York University education historian and former U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary — say the company’s track record in California is so worrisome that there should be no excuse for lawmakers dragging their feet.

“The California Legislature should feel obligated to do something about it,” Ravitch said. “It’s incomprehensible that no one seems to care.”

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

Note: K12, inc operates Insight of Ohio, and Ohio Virtual Academy…

William Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, has been tracking the movement by school districts to bill the state for money lost to charters. Ohio has many charters rated D or F by the state that divert funding from public schools.  Be sure to read the linked letter.

He writes in his latest post:

“Morgan Local School Board invoices the state for $1,138,235 in local funds deducted for charter schools

 

“School districts continue to invoice the state. The Morgan invoice is for local levy funding only. Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe’s thoughtful letter to the state emphasizes the education abuse suffered by charter students residing in the Morgan Local School District. The dismal performance of charters should be of grave concern to all local district officials and educators. Is it not a fiduciary responsibility of local school officials to ensure their students the most efficacious educational opportunity possible?

 

“State officials have the constitutional responsibility to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools. The Ohio system was declared unconstitutional four times by the Ohio Supreme Court. Since those declarations, $7 billion has been deducted from school districts for the parasitical charter industry.”

William Phillis

Ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net

Governor Brown has until October 11 to sign or veto legislation that would ban for-profit charter schools in California. it is outrageous to squander taxpayer dollars on profits for investors and outrageous executive salaries. This bill should be a slam dunk for Governor Brown, a man with a keen sense of justice. Now I hope the legislature tightens oversight of nonprofit charter schools and reviews their executive salaries to be sure that they really are nonprofit. And while they are at it, they should ban charter schools in affluent communities, which violate the spirit if the charter movement, which wassupposedto help the neediest kids, not to enable rich parents to create a publicly-funded private school for their children.

Here is the legislation awaiting Governor Brown’s signature:

“For-profit charter schools: Charter schools run by for-profit corporations would not be allowed in California under the terms of AB 787, authored by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, which passed the Legislature. Six for-profit charter schools operate in the state, and California Virtual Academies, managed by the for-profit K12 Inc., is the largest. The bill’s author noted that K12 paid its top six executives a total of nearly $11 million in 2011-12, while the average California Virtual Academies teacher’s salary was $36,150, about half of the average teacher pay in the state. The author raised the question of whether a for-profit corporation would try to limit services to students to increase profits.”

via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1PNH93t