According to Education Week, the Center for Media and Democracy and Education has released a report on America’s highest paid government workers, and they are not whom you would think of.

In education, it is Ron Packard, who until recently was CEO of K12 Inc., which manages virtual charter schools. Packard, formerly of McKinsey, was paid handsomely. The company insists its schools are public schools,” as it sucks tuition dollars away from community public schools:

“The center says Packard earned more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, and notes that that compensation rolled in as K12 achieved a lackluster academic showing in various states. As a company, the report says that K12 took in $848 million in 2013, with $731 million derived from its “managed public schools” operations.”

Packard announced in January that he was stepping down to head a new company but will remain on the K12 board.

And you wondered why we spend so much on education? Check out the burgeoning industry of for-profits and consultants and others who tell schools what to do and how to do it but never enter a classroom.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

When Frank Bruni wrote a column saying that American students are too “coddled,” he added a gratuitous swipe at “leftwing paranoiacs” who ”imagine some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats.”

Well, here is another point of view, called “Wall Street is Designing the Future of Public Education.” It appears on

I think Bruni has not heard about the investors’ conferences where hedge funders and entrepreneurs gather to learn about the opportunities to make a profit in public education. Stephanie Simon, then at Reuters (now at, wrote an article about this called “Private Firms Eyeing Profits from U.S. Public Schools.”

Why are so many hedge fund managers so interested in funding charter chains?

Why is the tech industry so devoted to Common Core and charters like Rocketship?

Why are billionaires and other wealthy individuals sending money to local school board races in districts where they do not live?

Anna Simonton, who wrote this post for Alternet, has done a herculean task trying to disentangle the web of connections among advocacy groups and entrepreneurs:

She writes:

The Education Reform Industrial Complex is a dizzying house of mirrors, with money ricocheting back and forth between many more players. To outline all of the connections would be a Herculean task.

Suffice it to say, their investments are paying off. National charter school enrollment has increased from 340,000 students in 1999 to 1.8 million in 2011. As of 2009, President Obama’s Race to the Top fund rewards states for tying teacher compensation to test scores. Teach for America boasts over 19,000 corps members and alumni teachers in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and has nearly doubled the number of alumni in school system leadership in the past two years. As a result, business is booming for education companies like K12 Inc., the country’s largest operator of full-time virtual schools, whose CEO received a compensation package of $6 million in 2011.

Most of this change has taken place as the result of campaigning and lobbying at the state and federal levels. But as the Atlanta school board election shows, no race is too small for the millionaires behind the education “reform” movement.

Last year these same millionaires bought school boards in New Orleans, Indianapolis, Memphis, and a little town in New Jersey called Perth Amboy. (The money in that purchase came from a man who made his fortune selling Bank of America shares to the government for twice what he paid, while stroking a pair of brass testicles he keeps on his desk for good luck.) This year Denver and Los Angeles were also sites of the onslaught, with reformer candidates collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

As regular readers of this blog know, there is a silver lining: An informed public.

Simonton writes:

In Seattle, Wash. and Bridgeport, Conn., the same script concluded with very different results. Last year, Bridgeport voters rejected a measure that would have ended school board elections for good by authorizing the mayor to choose board members. The referendum was backed by Michelle Rhee and Michael Bloomberg, but real grassroots organizing efforts shot it down.

This year, in Seattle, blogger and activist Sue Peters ran for school board on a platform critical of corporate education reform. She was outspent 4 to 1 by her billionaire-backed opponent, but squeaked by with 52% of the vote.

These cases offer hope that when voters are made aware of the money trail, they turn out and vote in their community’s interest.



via Diane Ravitch’s blog

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

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

K12 sued, and for now, has lost.

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

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

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

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

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

The Center for Media and Democracy has compiled a list of America’s highest-paid government employees. They are not teachers or nurses or social workers.

“Time and again we’re told that librarians, nurses and teachers are to blame for state and local budget problems,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy. “In reality, taxpayers are being duped by corporate CEOs and Wall Street banks that are siphoning money out of our communities for huge salaries and bonus packages.”

CMD writes:

The effort is part of our ongoing new project,, which focuses on 12 firms doing the most to privatize public services.

Today, CMD puts the spotlight on Ron Packard, CEO of K12 Inc., America’s highest paid teacher. 

K12 Inc. is a publicly-traded (NYSE: LRN) for-profit, online education company headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. On its own and as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), K12 Inc. has pushed a national agenda to replace bricks and mortar classrooms with computers and replace actual teachers with “virtual” ones. As K12 Inc. notes in its most recent 10-K, “most of (its) revenues depend on per pupil funding amounts and payment formulas” from government contracts for virtual public charter schools and “blended schools” (combining online with traditional instruction), among other products. 

From 2009-2013, Packard received $19 million in taxpayer dollars. Not bad for a government employee!

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

University Preparatory Academy in Pinellas County claimed it would outperform all the local public schools.

But 69 students have left the school in the early weeks of school, complaining of bullying and other problems.

They are returning to their local public schools.

The Tampa Bay Times writes:

Children are leaving University Preparatory Academy, the charter school that promised to do better than their struggling neighborhood schools.

They are leaving in droves.

Since the school year began, 69 children have withdrawn from University Prep. They are returning to Maximo Elementary, Woodlawn Elementary, Bay Point Middle and other under-performing traditional public schools.

Earlier this month, 20 children left in one week. Eight have left in the past three school days.

Four teachers have quit, along with the school’s curriculum director.

A Pinellas County Schools administrator interviewed parents last month, when 23 children had left, to determine whether University Prep was telling families to leave. But parents said they were pulling their children voluntarily. They were concerned about bullying, missing textbooks and other issues.

University Prep has received initial approval to open a school in Tampa next fall, and has explored campuses in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Cheri Shannon, the school’s founder and principal, says the St. Petersburg school with just under 500 students is experiencing “growing pains” typical of a charter’s first few months.

Egged on by Jeb Bush and his powerful political machine, Florida has been eager to hand out charters and slow to enforce any quality control.

The end game is to marginalize traditional public schools and eventually to turn over the lion’s share of public education to for-profit charter operators and chain schools.

That way, education will be just another consumer good, not a civic obligation.

And the motto of education will be: caveat emptor.

Take your chances with fly-by-night operators, schools run by ex-cons, schools run by fast-buck entrepreneurs, schools run out of church basements.

That’s the vision.

Florida wants to be first in making it happen.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Good News: Illinois Enacts Moratorium on Virtual Charters

Diane Ravitch’s blog

A site to discuss better education for all

Thank you, Governor Pat Quinn!

And congratulations to the 18 suburban districts that protected their students.

Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that enacts a one-year moratorium on virtual charters, allowing time to study their performance. Any impartial study will reveal that online charters get poor results. They have high student dropouts every year, students get low grades and have a poor graduation rate. The beneficiaries of online charters are the corporations that own them. They make huge profits.

Eighteen suburban districts had previously banned the virtual schools, which allegedly wanted to target at-risk students. Online charters have no record of success serving at-risk students. These are the students most in need of human contact with caring teachers.