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

0 Comments

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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K12 Inc. (LRN) Releases Quarterly Earnings Results

Posted by Andrew Walz on Aug 9th, 2016 // 0 Comments

K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) announced its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday. The company reported $0.09 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $0.13 by $0.04. The business earned $221.30 million during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $210.13 million. During the same period in the prior year, the business earned $0.18 EPS. K12’s quarterly revenue was down 6.1% on a year-over-year basis.

K12 (NYSE:LRN) opened at 12.83 on Tuesday. The company’s market capitalization is $481.02 million. The company’s 50 day moving average price is $12.70 and its 200-day moving average price is $11.13. K12 has a 12-month low of $7.11 and a 12-month high of $15.00.

Several equities research analysts have issued reports on LRN shares. Barrington Research restated a “market perform” rating on shares of K12 in a report on Friday, July 15th. TheStreet upgraded K12 from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report on Friday, July 8th.

K12 Inc (K12) is a technology-based education company. The Company offers curriculum, software systems and educational services designed to facilitate individualized learning for students in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12). It provides a range of technology-based educational products and solutions to public school districts, public schools, virtual charter schools, private schools and families.

Receive News & Ratings for K12 Inc. Daily – Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts’ ratings for K12 Inc. and related companies with our FREE daily email newsletter.

Latest Editorial Proves The Wall Street Journal Will Defend Almost Any For-Profit Education Company

The Wall Street Journal continued its streak of defending for-profit schools with track records of questionable practices and “abysmal results,” this time shifting its focus away from fraudulent for-profit colleges to attempt to sugarcoat the failing online charter company K12 Inc.

The virtual charter school company K12 Inc. recently reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state of California following an investigation into the company’s marketing and management practices. At the same time, the state’s Education Department has announced an audit of a California virtual charter network managed by K12. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board was, once again, ready to dismiss facts and defend the for-profit education company against what the board views as a politically motivated attack, baselessly claiming that recently substantiated allegations against K12 are “trumped up.”

The California state investigation into K12, launched by state Attorney General Kamala Harris, alleged that the company had engaged in a number of misleading advertising practices about the quality of its online schools, pushed unfair contracts on public charter partners, and inflated student attendance numbers in order to receive more state funding. It was spurred, at least in part, by a whistleblower report and complaints from educators formerly employed by a California charter network managed by K12. Educators at the K12-managed network moved to unionize in 2014, citing excessive workloads and inability to “effectively advocate for students without the threat of retaliation or job loss.”

An investigative series at the San Jose Mercury News earlier this year concluded that K12’s network of schools “is failing key tests used to measure educational success,” that K12-affiliated “teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding,” and that the companyexploits charter [and] charity laws for money.” An online education expert explained to The Mercury News that K12 “has shown an inordinate level of failure, yet it’s continually given lifelines by policymakers who have irresponsibly ignored what’s going on.”

Yet the Journal contended that another audit of K12’s management practices “looks trumped up” in a July 17 editorial. Complaining about K12’s settlement with the state of California, the editorial board characterized the investigation of K12 as part of a larger “coordinated assault” on for-profit colleges and education companies and claimed that “Democrats are ambushing” the virtual charter school company. According to the editorial board, the further audit of K12 means “Thuggish government marches on.”

The disastrous results of K12’s schooling model have also been well-documented in media investigations and in research from left-leaning and right-leaning organizations. A New York Times investigation raised red flags about K12’s practices as early as 2011, concluding about the company:

A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.

Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

A 2011 Washington Post report singled out K12’s early lobbying efforts and political contributions, pointing to limited data on the effectiveness of virtual charter schools even as the company successfully opened up state markets for its products through political involvement. In 2012, PolitiFact concluded that a Tennessee politician’s assertion that K12’s results were “the bottom of the bottom” was true.

The most recent reports from Mathematica Policy Research, Stanford University’s Center for Research in Education Outcomes, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education concluded that “students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.” BuzzFeed News’ coverage of the reports concluded that “Both Sides Of The Education Debate Are United In Scorn” for online charters like K12 due to “abysmal results” for students.

But K12 has the corporate and conservative credentials to warrant a healthy defense from The Wall Street Journal.

K12 Inc., until recently, called itself a “proud” member of the corporate-driven bill mill American Legislative Education Council (ALEC), which has pushed virtual schools legislation that would create greater demand for products like those produced by K12. K12 has also contributed financially to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a pro-privatization think tank founded by Jeb Bush that also frequently touts digital learning tools in its policy recommendations. The majority of K12’s executives hail from the corporate world or from other for-profit education companies, and the head of K12’s “curriculum and products organization” previously spearheaded product development at Pearson Publishing.

The Journal has a long history of defending the sometimes indefensible when it comes to for-profit educational companies, often relying on violent analogies to make its point.

The paper stood by shuttered for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, even as the company faced multiple state and federal investigations related to its allegedly fraudulent marketing practices and its efforts to facilitate predatory private lending. In fact, the Journal’s editorial board characterized the numerous investigations, launched because of consumer complaints, as “political revenge” by “California job killer” Kamala Harris and a “drive-by shooting” and “contract hit” by the Obama administration. In April 2015, as the company closed its last remaining campuses, The Wall Street Journal wrote a “last rites” editorial lamenting that “the feds and Kamala Harris put 16,000 students on the street.” The now-defunct company has been held legally responsible for its practices, with several investigations and legal actions concluding that Corinthian had, indeed, misled its students about job placement rates and private loan terms, and that former students were owed debt relief.

The Journal has also repeatedly characterized efforts to address these types of fraudulent practices at other for-profit institutions as “regulatory assault,” a “ploy to win over millennials,” a “contract hit” (again), and a political “stealth attack” akin to “drone strikes,” dismissing evidence that these types of schools have taken advantage of veterans and servicemembers, as well as other innocent students, on the taxpayers’ dime.

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.

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. and K12, Inc. Head to Head Compare

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. versus K12, Inc. Head to Head Compare

This is a head to head comparison of Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:LOPE) and K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN) . We will compare the two companies on revenue growth, earnings, revenue per employee, operating margins, free cash flow and valuation. The head to head scorecard assigns 100 points in total.

Before we dive into the analysis, we will look at the stock returns for each company over the last three months, six months and the last year. The stock returns do not impact the head to head comparison scores which are focused on the fundamentals of each company, but ultimately stock returns are are still a critical piece to a full analysis.

Stock Returns
Symbol 3-Months 6-Months One-Year Fundamentals
LOPE -1.4% +7.9% -2.8%
LRN +12.8% +27.6% -14.3%

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. has a substantially higher fundamental rating then K12, Inc. which has an impact on the head-to-head comparison. The CML Star Rating is an objective, quantifiable measure of a company’s operating and financial condition. The rating is computed by measuring numerous elements of the company’s current financial data and their associated changes over time.

Now, let’s dive into the two companies to compare them.

➤ Income Statement

↪ LRN has larger revenue in the last year than LOPE. Raw revenue comps do not affect the head to head rating.

↪ Both LOPE and LRN show positive earnings over the last year with the edge to LOPE.

➤ Margins

↪LOPE generates $1.41 in revenue for every $1 of expense, while LRN generates an operating loss of $0.94 in revenue per $1 of expense.

LRN generates $0.06 in levered free cash flow for every $1 of revenue, while LOPE generates a cash flow loss of $-0.00 per $1 of revenue.

➤ Growth

↪ Both companies are growing revenue. LOPE is growing revenue massively faster than LRN.

↪ For every $1 in revenue, the stock market prices in $2.82 in market cap for LOPE and $0.51 in market cap for LRN.

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:LOPE) defeats K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN) : 84 to 16

WHY THIS MATTERS

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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

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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.

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.

Online School Enriches Affiliated Companies if Not Its Students

Photo

Alliyah Graham, a senior in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school, in Liberty Township, Ohio, in February.

Credit
Andrew Spear for The New York Times

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school based here, graduated 2,371 students last spring. At the commencement ceremony, a student speaker triumphantly told her classmates that the group was “the single-largest graduating high school class in the nation.”

What she did not say was this: Despite the huge number of graduates — this year, the school is on track to graduate 2,300 — more students drop out of the Electronic Classroom or fail to finish high school within four years than at any other school in the country, according to federal data. For every 100 students who graduate on time, 80 do not.

Even as the national on-time graduation rate has hit a record high of 82 percent, publicly funded online schools like the Electronic Classroom have become the new dropout factories.

These schools take on students with unorthodox needs — like serious medical problems or experiences with bullying — that traditional districts may find difficult to meet. But with no physical classrooms and high pupil-to-teacher ratios, they cannot provide support in person.

“If you’re disconnected or struggling or you haven’t done well in school before, it’s going to be tough to succeed in this environment,” said Robert Balfanz, the director of the Everyone Graduates Center, a nonprofit research and advocacy group in Baltimore.

Virtual schools have experienced explosive growth nationwide in recent years, financed mostly by state money. But according to a report released on Tuesday by America’s Promise Alliance, a consortium of education advocacy groups, the average graduation rate at online schools is 40 percent.

Few states have as many students in e-schools as Ohio. Online charter schools here are educating one out of every 26 high school students, yet their graduation rates are worse than those in the state’s most impoverished cities, including Cleveland and Youngstown.

With 17,000 pupils, most in high school, the Electronic Classroom is the largest online school in the state. Students and teachers work from home on computers, communicating by email or on the school’s web platform at distances that can be hundreds of miles apart.

In 2014, the school’s graduation rate did not even reach 39 percent. Because of this poor record, as well as concerns about student performance on standardized tests, the school is now under “corrective action” by a state regulator, which is determining its next steps.

But while some students may not have found success at the school, the Electronic Classroom has richly rewarded private companies affiliated with its founder, William Lager, a software executive.

When students enroll in the Electronic Classroom or in other online charters, a proportion of the state money allotted for each pupil is redirected from traditional school districts to the cyberschools. At the Electronic Classroom, which Mr. Lager founded in 2000, the money has been used to help enrich for-profit companies that he leads. Those companies provide school services, including instructional materials and public relations.

For example, in the 2014 fiscal year, the last year for which federal tax filings were available, the school paid the companies associated with Mr. Lager nearly $23 million, or about one-fifth of the nearly $115 million in government funds it took in.

Critics say the companies associated with Mr. Lager have not delivered much value. “I don’t begrudge people making money if they really can build a better mousetrap,” said Stephen Dyer, a former Ohio state legislator and the education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, a Columbus think tank that is sharply critical of online charter schools.

“It’s clear that Mr. Lager has not done a service over all to kids, and certainly not appreciably better than even the most struggling school districts in the state,” Mr. Dyer added. “But he’s becoming incredibly wealthy doing a very mediocre job for kids.”

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The home office of Hannah Brown, an art teacher for the Electronic Classroom, in Columbus, Ohio.

Credit
Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Mr. Lager declined requests for an interview. In an emailed statement on Tuesday, he did not respond to questions about his affiliated companies but said the Electronic Classroom’s graduation rate did not accurately measure the school’s performance.

In the statement, he said many students arrived at the school already off-track and have trouble making up the course credits in time to graduate.

“Holding a school accountable for such students is like charging a relief pitcher with a loss when they enter a game three runs behind and wiping out the record of the starting pitcher,” his statement said.

The statement added that the school “should be judged based on an accountability system that successfully controls for the academic effects of demographic factors such as poverty, special needs and mobility.”

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In an interview, Rick Teeters, the superintendent of the Electronic Classroom, said many of the students were older than was typical for their grade, while others faced serious life challenges, including pregnancy or poverty.

Mr. Lager is correct in noting that the student body at the Electronic Classroom is highly mobile; last year more than half the school’s students enrolled for less than the full school year. And of those who dropped out of high school, half were forced to withdraw after being reported truant.

Also, according to state data, 19 percent of the students have disabilities, higher than the state average.

But the proportion of students who come from low-income families — just under 72 percent — is lower than in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. Close to three-quarters of the school’s students are white.

In a self-published book in 2002, “The Kids That ECOT Taught,” Mr. Lager wrote that “the dropout rate is the most critical issue facing our public education system but it is only the first of many problems that can be solved by e-learning.”

Through the Electronic Classroom, he wrote, he planned to make public education more efficient and effective.

He added, “No business could suffer results that any school in Columbus Public delivers and not be driven out of business.”

Peggy Lehner, a Republican state senator who sponsored a charter school reform bill that passed the legislature last fall, said the problem was the school, not the students.

“When you take on a difficult student, you’re basically saying, ‘We feel that our model can help this child be successful,’ ” she said. “And if you can’t help them be successful, at some point you have to say your model isn’t working, and if your model is not working, perhaps public dollars shouldn’t be going to pay for it.”

Some of those public dollars are being paid to IQ Innovations and Altair Learning Management, companies associated with Mr. Lager. Altair has had a contract with the school since 2000, a school spokesman, Neil Clark, said. According to federal filings, it received $4.2 million in 2014. Mr. Lager is the company’s chief executive.

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Administrative employees at the Electronic Classroom’s headquarters in Columbus.

Credit
Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Mr. Clark said Altair provided “a variety of services,” including a program of instruction, strategic planning, public relations, financial reporting and budgeting.

In filings with the Ohio secretary of state, Mr. Lager is listed as a registered agent for IQ Innovations; in campaign finance records, he was listed as the company’s chief executive as recently as 2015. IQ Innovations received $18.7 million from the school in 2014.

Mr. Clark said IQ Innovations had provided the school with grading software and digital curriculum materials since 2008.

He said that neither Altair nor IQ Innovations was required to go through a competitive bidding process.

At the school’s headquarters, in a former mall set at the back of a parking lot here, attendance clerks sit in a windowless room, tracking how often students log in to the network. Those who do not log in for 30 days are reported as truant.

Guidance counselors carry caseloads of up to 500 students each, and the schoolwide pupil-teacher ratio is 30 to one.

For some students, the Electronic Classroom can provide a release valve from the pressures or frustrations of a traditional school. Several students assembled by the school to talk to a reporter said they had experienced bullying or boredom before enrolling.

“Without the bullying, I was able to focus,” said Sydney DeBerry, 20, who left a private school to enroll in the Electronic Classroom, which she graduated from in 2014. “That was a big distraction, not only to my work but to my individuality.”

Students who made it to graduation said self-motivation was crucial. “Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot just log on once a week and get by and still pass your classes,” said Dianna Norwood, 19, who graduated last year and is now a student at Ohio State University.

But other students complained that the school could make it difficult to succeed.

Alliyah Graham, 19, said she had sought out the Electronic Classroom during her junior year because she felt isolated as one of a few African-American girls at a mostly white public school in a Cincinnati suburb.

It took three weeks for the Electronic Classroom to enter her in its system, she said. Then it assigned her to classes she had already passed at her previous school. When she ran into technical problems, she said, “I really just had to wing it.”

Ms. Graham, who hopes to pursue a career in medicine, has also been disappointed by the quality of assignments. She showed a reporter a digital work sheet for a senior English class, in which students were asked to read a passage and then fill in boxes, circles and trapezoids, noting the “main idea,” a “picture/drawing,” or “questions you have.”

“I feel like I did this kind of work in middle school,” Ms. Graham said.

When she turns in assignments, she said, feedback from teachers is minimal. “Good job!” they write. “Keep going!”

She hopes to graduate this spring.

Her cousin, Makyla Woods, 19, moved to Cincinnati from Georgia last year, as a senior, to live with her father. Since Ms. Graham was already enrolled in the Electronic Classroom, Ms. Woods decided to give it a try.

But she soon moved out from her father’s apartment, took a job at McDonald’s and stopped doing assignments. “I just got lazy doing work on the computer,” she said.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

A version of this article appears in print on May 19, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Online School Sold as a Success, but Many Fail. Order ReprintsToday’s PaperSubscribe

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Hugh Jackson wrote this disturbing article for Nevada NPR. It demonstrates the extent to which the charter industry is expanding, bringing in lucrative real estate deals, speculation, and for-profit entrepreneurs from out of state. More than 35,000 students have enrolled in charters, at a cost to taxpayers of a quarter billion dollars.

 

He writes:

 

“Charter schools are publicly funded, but privately operated. The result is a charter-school industry, encompassing what can be a dizzying array of arrangements and contracts between the schools, their unelected boards, state agencies, property developers, for-profit management companies, nonprofit arms of private companies, hedge funds and investment firms, and myriad consultants, contractors and education-industry vendors. Virtually every dollar everyone in the charter-school industry makes is provided by the taxpaying public….

 

“Of the quarter-billion dollars Nevada taxpayers provided to charter schools in 2014-15, more than a fifth of it — $54 million, according to state data — went to schools managed by a single for-profit company, a Florida-based firm called Academica. Established in 1996 and boasting close ties to then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Academica has been the center of numerous controversies in that state, particularly after the Miami Herald reported that the firm used public money to lease real estate from development companies owned by the same people who own Academica, brothers Fernando and Ignacio Zulueta. Academica has also come under fire in Florida for, among other things, setting up a separate “college” in one of its charter high schools and charging taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide students with two-year “degrees” of dubious worth.

 

“Academica is not a publicly traded company, and any financial information about the firm is difficult to come by, let alone the type of granular financial reporting that might indicate how much of Academica’s Nevada revenue stays in Nevada, as opposed to flying out of the state as profit.

 

“As a practical matter, Academica is not only relied upon every step of the way, but the instigator. No doubt some charter schools are the result of concerned citizens and parents banding together, from the bottom up, as it were, to fill what they perceive to be a particular educational niche or void. With a new Academica school, the far more likely scenario involves a for-profit company making market-based decisions on location, timing, demographics and such, not unlike Walmart determining where to open a new Sam’s Club. Upon determining that a new project pencils out, Academica finds the statutorily requisite citizen’s charter school board. (The state does not require a charter school board to take competitive bids before selecting a management firm, and such a bidding process would be unthinkable in schools being spearheaded by Academica….).

 

“Enter the investment funds

 

“To be eligible for state funding to build or improve a charter school facility, the school has to have been opened for three years. So it needs financing to bridge the gap between the school’s opening and its eligibility for state facility financing (it’s already receiving operating funds from the state).

 

“The Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund is one of several for-profit investment funds in the nation that have attracted capital from a) foundations, institutional investors and individuals who are “for” education; and b) hedge funds, investment banks and other investors drawn to generous federal tax credits on income earned from the public through charter-school profits.

 

“Started by Southern California financier Bobby Turner in partnership with long-time Las Vegas charter-school champion Andre Agassi, Turner-Agassi has provided bridge financing for at least four Academica building projects in Nevada and is doing the same for most of Academica’s aggressive expansion in the state.

 

“Here’s more or less how it works:

 

“Turner-Agassi puts up money to develop property for a charter school. After three years, during which time the school, which is to say the public, rents the property from the investment fund, the charter is eligible for state financing to buy the property from Turner-Agassi.

 

“The school is purchased from the investment fund with money raised by revenue bonds issued through the state Division of Business and Industry —
public debt. Charter-school bonds in Nevada are so-called limited-obligation bonds, backed by the school’s revenue (which comes from the state education budget), as opposed to general obligation bonds, backed by revenue from a tax increase. Limited obligation bonds typically pay higher interest rates than general obligation bonds, which translates into higher interest payments for the public when it pays off the debt….

 

“Project dates listed on Turner-Agassi’s portfolio online indicate Academica will be eligible for a first batch of state loans to purchase the investment fund’s developments in 2017.

 

“Meanwhile, regardless of who owns the property the charter school is in, the management company is charging the school, which is to say the public, for management/professional fees on top of salaries, insurance, energy and other operating costs. Those fees can be spread through various categories of school balance sheets provided to the state, but those reports show that in Academica’s case, management fees totaled, at the very least, $3 million in the 2014-15 school year.

 

“The arrangement between Turner-Agassi and Academica is only one model that might be used to finance construction in the charter-school industry.

 

“For instance, a few years ago, Imagine Schools, one of the nation’s largest charter firms, made national headlines at its 100 Academy of Excellence in North Las Vegas when 40 percent of the school’s state-provided revenue was spent on lease payments to a real-estate investment trust. As a Nevada Education Department official told the New York Times in 2010, “After paying for real estate and management, 100 Academy has very little left over for education.”

 

“Shenanigans and accountability

 

“Academica is the undisputed heavyweight of Nevada’s charter-school industry and has the most aggressive expansion plans in the state. But practices at other charter operations have been attracting more — or at least more critical — official scrutiny.

 

“The state of Nevada provided Silver State High School in Carson City nearly $5 million in the 2014-15 school year. Along with all the ways a school might spend the public’s money, Silver State decided one of them was investing in the Wall Street derivatives market. When a member of the school’s board brought the investment to the attention of the State Public School Charter Authority (SPSCA), the authority ruled the investment a no-no and ordered the school closed at the end of the current school year.

 

“Quest Academy, with four campuses in Southern Nevada, received more than $10 million from the state in 2014-15. In October the SPSCA documented how members of the school’s board had hired family members in violation of nepotism regulations. The SPSCA has subsequently dissolved the board, appointed a receiver to oversee school finances, and the SPSCA could ultimately revoke or refuse to renew the school’s charter. This comes three years after the SPSCA forced Quest to restructure its board and fire a principal upon discovering staff was paid thousands of dollars in unauthorized bonuses, and the principal was spending a bunch of unauthorized money on travel and shopping.

 

“As for charter schools being the cradle of innovation, the pedagogical emphasis for which charters are perhaps most renowened is “teaching to the test” even more intensely than testing-obsessed public schools.

 
“And then there are the cyber schools. Yes, in Nevada, online schools are charter schools, too. The largest, Nevada Virtual Academy, operated by the corporate giant K12 Inc., received nearly $30 million in public funds in 2014-15 to provide online education to 2,600 students, a per-student cost of $11,500. Per-student spending at Academica schools averaged, by contrast, less than $8,000.

 

“Higher per-student spending at an online school seems counterintuitive. After all, there is no property to develop, no classrooms or desks. But as cyber schools have emerged as one of the largest segments of the charter-school industry, they’ve become renowned not only for poor performance, but also for frenetic enrollment churn. Online schools market heavily to attract students, but online learning isn’t for everyone, and many students withdraw to return to brick-and-mortar schools. That churn could manifest itself as higher costs in lots of ways. The state can be charged for students who are no longer in the schools (as was found in a Colorado audit of K12 a few years ago). Or the state gets saddled for up-front student costs even if those students leave later. Or in K12’s case, maybe the company just isn’t very good at holding down costs: Nevada Virtual Academy spent more than $2 million for textbooks last year. Academica, with nearly three times as many students, spent $219,000. State data indicates K12’s management fees, at least $4 million, were also larger than Academica’s.

 

“Proposed rules would effectively give the SPCSA additional authority to force a charter school to fire its management organization and make it easier for the authority to deny a charter school’s renewal.

 

“The most adamant objections to those rules have been filed by Nevada Virtual Academy and the state’s second largest cyber charter school, Nevada Connections, owned by the international corporate education giant Pearson Inc.

 

“The cases of Silver State and Quest, as well as the proposed regulations, appear to reflect a commitment of the SPCSA and its executive director, Patrick Gavin, to try to hold charter schools accountable.

 

“It might be a tall order. Although Nevada’s charter-accountability regulations were hailed as improved in a recent national report, that report noted that the SPSCA does not have the requisite staff to conduct consistent monitoring crucial to effective regulation. The standard recommended staff is roughly one monitor for every 1,000 charter-school students. In Nevada, Gavin estimates it is closer to one for every 5,000. The SPSCA is funded by fees charged to authority-sponsored schools, currently about one percent of a school’s operating budget. Boosting those fees will be a top SPCSA priority when the Legislature meets next year.

 

“Why are we doing this, anyway?

 
“Everyone is in favor of choice in education,” Ryan Reeves, director of Academica’s Nevada operations, told the Review-Journal in 2014.

 

“It’s a seductive argument in an era when identity and self-worth are often shaped by where one shops.

 

“And charters are breaking down barriers erected by decades of entrenched education bureaucracy, thus reinvigorating education with a spirit and dedication that just can’t be found in tired public schools lumbering along under the weight of oppressive administrative bloat. Indeed, charter schools are the heart of education innovation.

 

“Or so the argument goes.

 

“Independent analysis suggests otherwise. Assessments conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University are frequently cited by the media and charter-school supporters. Yet even the results of CREDO’s most recent national study were mixed at best, finding charter schools performing slightly, if at all, better than traditional schools at reading, and performing, if anything, worse than traditional schools in math. Critics charge that even CREDO’s modest findings overstate the performance of charter schools.

 

“As for charter schools being the cradle of innovation, the pedagogical emphasis for which charters are perhaps most renowned is “teaching to the test” even more intensely than testing-obsessed public schools — test scores being the key, if not the only, means of assessing educational outcomes in a publicly funded but privately run school….

 

“A good portion of the public acceptance of charters is attributed to what is sometimes called “sector agnosticism” — the view that how a school is managed, or who makes money from it, is irrelevant so long as the results are good.

 

“But charter companies and pro-charter politicians and advocates are anything but agnostic. The rapid growth of the charter-school industry has been accompanied by relentless and disingenuous attacks on public schools and the people who work in them. The interest groups, ideologues and politicians who most zealously promote “school choice” are often the most eager to malign public institutions.

 

“Charter schools emerged on the scene more than a quarter century ago as laboratories where public-school systems could test methods, and the most promising results could be implemented elsewhere in public schools. Some charter supporters, parents and charter-industry executives and investors obviously mean well and still view charters as an overall benefit to the public good.

 

“But today’s charter industry, much like Nevada’s voucher plan, reflects a chronic civic defeatism. Echoing the perverse social Darwinism of more than a century ago, faith in free-market education is a surrender to pessimism. Society really isn’t incapable of providing a fair educational opportunity to every citizen. Some people are doomed to fail, that’s just the way it is, so best to segregate those with promise, the achievers, in separate schools. As for everyone else, well, too bad for them.

 

“In the meantime, capitalizing on politically correct disdain for public institutions and a consumer culture’s visceral embrace of “choice,” and truly impressed by the steady flow of public money through the public-education revenue stream, the private sector is working feverishly … maybe to create quality schools, but definitely to drain more and more money from that stream.”

 

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