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WASTE WATCH: More Concerns on Virtual Academy–Mikayla Lewis

Updated: Friday, February 14 2014, 11:54 PM CST

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Fox 17 brought you the story of how some state lawmakers are concerned about the Tennessee Virtual Academy wasting taxpayer dollars. Tonight, it is not just about the below-average scores the online school’s students are getting on standardized tests, but who is profiting.



Tennessee Virtual Academy is run by K12 Inc. which is backed by a variety of investment groups. The education company says it is working to improve students’ standardized test scores.



Mount Juliet mother, Krys Midgett says she loved TNVA. She watched her son, Robby complete 7th and 8th grade in TNVA. The online school only offers grades K-9, so she had to send her son to a regular public high school.



Krys Midgett said, “I liked the website. You can see exactly what questions he’s missed. It’s not like you have to wait the next nine weeks to see what the grades are. So parents are extremely involved, because K12 requires they be involved.”



Tennesse Virtual Academy is operated through Union County School District. The county pays K12 for materials and services. Last year, TNVA received more than $12 million dollars through the Basic Education Program.



Rep.Michael Stewart said, ” An organization that does nothing more than turn on a website. Why should we be paying such an enormous amount of money for such a limited service.”



State representative Michael Stewart backed legislation last year to close the school. The school is still open to all Tennessee families and  K12 Inc. remains open in the stock market. K12 is supported by numerous investors, but one stands out to Stewart.



Rep. Stewart said, “Michael Milken…who is a convicted felon.”



Milken is known as the junk-bond king of the 1980’s. He is rumored to be the partial inspiration of Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wallstreet.” Michael Milken did serve time in prison for securities fraud, but is also known as a philanthropist.



Jeff Kwitowski, K12 spokesperson said, ” Mike Milken did not found K12. He was never employed by K12. He never sat on the board of directors. ”



Milken and other initial K12 investors rake in millions each year.



Rep.Stewart said, ” It’s a very bad service and they overcharge for it. It’s unfortunate we chose to take that deal, but we need to get out of it.”



The Tennessee Virtual Academy’s per-pupil expenditure is more than $7,000.  Kwitowski says TNVA does not receive the full amount, and K12 covers the difference.



“So that it doesn’t have to cut services, teachers or other potential programs. It’s a non-profit school, one of the lowest funded schools in the state. It’s an option for students and a choice for parents,” explained Kwitowski.



Tennessee Virtual Academy also serves special education and low-income students, but it does not receive Title 1 funding like regular public schools. TNVA is only in its third year, but K12 has been around for more than a decade. K12 Inc. is a vendor for virtual schools in more than half the states of the country.





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Darcy Bedortha is a guest writer for Anthony Cody’s blog.


She tells her story as a Lead Teacher for a K12 virtual charter school.


She confirms all the worst fears of critics of virtual charters.


They make a lot of money. They are passionate about profits, not students.


Students need one-to-one contact with a human being. They don’t get it.


In a long and heartbreaking post, she writes:


I was an English teacher, so my students would write. They wrote of pain and fear and of not fitting in. They were the kinds of young people who desperately needed to have the protective circle of a community watching over them. They needed one healthy person to smile at them and recognize them by name every day, to say “I’m glad you’re here!” Many of my former students do not have that.


The last thing these young people needed, I came to realize during my time with K12 Inc., was to be isolated in front of a computer screen. A week or two or three would often go by without my getting a word from a student. They didn’t answer their email, they didn’t answer their phones. Often their phones were disconnected. Their families were disconnected. My students also moved a lot. During my first year at the school I spent days on the phone trying to track students down. This year I struggled to not simply give up under the weight of it all.


In the fall of 2013, 42 percent of our high school students were deemed “economically disadvantaged.” I had a number of students who were not native English speakers. I cannot wrap my head around how to serve a student who is unable to read or comprehend the language that the virtual curriculum is written in, let alone learn the technology (when it is functioning) without sitting beside them in the same space. Many of my non-native speakers had parents who did not speak English at all. These students often struggled for a very short time, and then I never saw their work again. They dropped out, moved on.


The school officials make millions of dollars. The virtual charter works for them.


Why are we allowing public dollars to flow to these non-educational institutions?


Silly question. They give campaign contributions. They lobby. They are strategic in advancing their goal: Profit.


 
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/anthony-cody-confessions-of-a-teacher-in-virtual-charter-school-hell/

Advice on how to open up a virtual charter school

Post on June 20, 2013 by Sarah OvaskaComments Off

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North Carolina or other states opening up online charter schools should put enrollment caps and other limits to ensure focus is kept on quality education and not profits, a board member of Colorado online charter school said recently.

“We’re not interested in being the biggest,” said Brian Bissell, the board chair of the Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), an online school that recently moved to distance itself from the for-profit K12, Inc. that ran the school. “We want to deliver a high quality education.”

The Colorado Virtual Academy, one of the largest online-based schools run by K12, Inc , decided this month to take back the school management functions from the Wall Street-traded online education company that runs public charter schools around the nation.

Bissell, whose three children attend the K12-run school, spoke with N.C. Policy Watch about why the board decided to scale back its relationship with K12 and gave some advice for states that have yet to see the controversial school option open.

North Carolina doesn’t currently have any online, or virtual, full-time schools, which allow students from kindergarten through high school to take their entire caseload through online interactions with teachers through their home computers. The state-run North Carolina Virtual Public School allows students around the state to take individual classes online, either to catch up with their peers or take advanced classes not offered in their home counties.

K12, Inc. is a national leader in the online education industry, but has been criticized for methods that critics argue aggressively putsprofits over quality and doesn’t serve students well. K12, Inc. defends its business, saying that the online option works for many families and that the low academic standings are partly attributed to a population of students that come to K12 at academic disadvantages.

A proposal to open a K12, Inc.-run school in North Carolina as a public charter school is tied up in litigation, and the company has employed several lobbyists to push its case at the N.C. General Assembly.

The Colorado charter school had graduation rates in the teens, and lost the sponsorship of the school district that sponsored it because of academic and fiscal difficulties at the school in recent years. The school will continue to use K12, Inc. for curriculum and management in the coming school year, but will not use the company for management in 2014-15, Bissell said.

“We are walking away from their management services,” Bissell said. “We are not going to be the school that’s focused on quantity over quality.”

He said that K12 delivered a quality product when it came to the actual educational programs, but that its turnkey management approach wasn’t one that the COVA board was comfortable with.  The school also is operating on a one-year charter, and the break from K12, Inc. is a condition of the school’s continuing existence.

K12, Inc., will still be doing in business in the state. Another online-based charter school that plans on contracting with the company recently got approval from Colorado education officials to open up.

Bissell, who also said he owns K12, Inc. shares, said he had become concerned about the way COVA was operating in recent years and thought K12, Inc. was marketing the school too aggressively without having the capabilities to handle large numbers of students.

He said that if North Carolina is interested in opening a virtual charter school, leaders should insist on making sure the school has an enrollment cap, has a commitment to transparency and keeps education dollars inside the state.

Colorado Virtual Academy’s popularity meant that taxpayers education dollars were flowing out of the state to create profit for investors and for K12 to open up schools in other markets, he said.

“A lot of our dollars went to fuel K12’s national growth,” Bissell said.

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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,OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org, 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 http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/25/who-are-our-highest-paid-government-employees/

Yes, there are charter schools that serve all kids. Yes, there are good charter schools that are not trying to drive the public schools out of existence.


But then there are the profiteers, who have spotted the charter industry as a chance to make money.


Surprise of surprises, this critical review of the profiteers appears in Forbes magazine. Fat City, indeed!


Regular readers of this blog know some of these stories. They know about green cards for foreign nationals who invest in charter schools. They know about the New Market Tax Credits. They know that sports figures without any educational qualifications are opening charter schools instead of summer camps. They know that the online corporation K12 pays its CEO$5 million, but did you know his pay is tied to recruitment, not to academic performance?


A few more new items:


“Charter schools are frequently a way for politicians to reward their cronies. In Ohio, two firms operate 9% of the state’s charter schools and are collecting 38% of the state’s charter school funding increase this year. The operators of both firms donate generously to elected Republicans.”


And:


“The history of publicly traded charter school firms is limited and ugly. Edison Schools traded publicly from 1999-2003. During that period, it reported one profitable quarter. Shares reached nearly $40 in early 2001… only to crash to 14 cents.”


And this:


“For now, the big money in charter schools is confined to those on the inside. In late 2010, Goldman Sachs announced it would lend $25 million to develop 16 charter schools in New York and New Jersey. The news release said the loans would be “credit-enhanced by funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.” Of course.”


And this:


“In Florida, the for-profit school industry flooded legislative candidates with $1.8 million in donations last year. “Most of the money,” reports The Miami Herald, “went to Republicans, whose support of charter schools, vouchers, online education and private colleges has put public education dollars in private-sector pockets.”


But, as the article says, both Democrats and Republicans have joined the game.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/25/forbes-all-aboard-the-charter-school-gravy-train/

Online schooling offers additional options

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http://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/

Students have a new option for online schooling, offering an alternative for parents too busy or too reluctant to teach in a home school environment. The Cyber Academy of South Carolina, an affiliate of the K12 online public school, is now accepting registration with classes set to begin Aug. 21.

On the fence about home schooling, but still want an alternative to traditional public school?

Students have a new option for online schooling, offering an alternative for parents too busy or too reluctant to teach in a home-school environment. The Cyber Academy of South Carolina, an affiliate of the K12 online public school, is now accepting registration with classes set to begin Aug. 21.

K12 provides full-time, tuition-free online learning and is an accredited public school through AdvancED, the same national organization that accredited the Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens and Anderson county school districts, according to each one’s website.

David Crook, head of school at Cyber Academy of South Carolina, said the cyber academy offers classes for students in kindergarten through ninth grade based on K12’s curriculum.

“They’ve got completely tuition-free access to world-class curriculum that meets all of the state’s standards, so once they’re in our program, all of their credits are for a full South Carolina diploma,” Crook said. “It takes a lot of the work out that families have to do in a home-school environment, creating the curriculum and making sure they’re doing enough with students to meet college readiness.

He said since the Cyber Academy of South Carolina is a charter public school, there’s no catch to its free tuition, but parents must register their students the same as they would at any school.

“The only thing they need is stable Internet access and a computer, and if they qualify for free or reduced lunch, there’s a way to submit a request to get a loaner computer for the family,” he said.

Jay Ragley, director of legislative and public affairs for the South Carolina State Department of Education, confirmed the CASC was approved to open as a public charter school in accordance with state law and said there have never been any complaints made to or investigations into K12 by the S.C. Department of Education.

“The school will be funded the same way as other public charter schools in the South Carolina Public Charter School District,” Ragley said. “These public schools receive state and federal funds, but no local tax dollars.

Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 13:59 By Brendan Fischer , PRWatch | News Analysis

http://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/

(Photo: Dystopos / Flickr )Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org . Thirty-one have become law.

ALEC Vouchers Transfer Taxpayer Money to Private and Religious Schools

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has called public education a “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.

But this “transformation” of public education – from an institution that serves the public into one that serves private for-profit interests – has been in progress for decades, thanks in large part to ALEC.

ALEC boasts on the “history” section of its website that it first started promoting “such ‘radical’ ideas as a [educational] voucher system” in 1983 – the same year as the Reagan administration’s “Nation At Risk” report – taking up ideas first articulated decades earlier by ALEC supporter Milton Friedman.

In 1990, Milwaukee was the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, under then-governor (and ALEC alum) Tommy Thompson. ALEC quickly embraced the legislation, and that same year offered model bills based on the Wisconsin plan. For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools. The “pricetag” for students in other states is even higher.

In the years since, programs to divert taxpayer money from public to private schools have spread across the country. In the 2012-2013 school year, it is estimated that nearly 246,000 students will participate in various iterations of so-called “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia – draining the public school system of critically-needed funds, and in some cases covering private school tuition for students whose parents are able and willing to pay.

But promised improvements in educational outcomes have not followed. “If vouchers are designed to create better educational outcomes, research has not borne out that result,” says Julie Mead, chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin. “If vouchers are such a great idea,” after twenty years in effect, “they would have borne fruit by now.

The ALEC education agenda also fits into the organization’s broader attack on unions: by lowering teacher certification standards and funnelling public money to non-unionized private schools, ALEC undermines teachers unions, which guarantee fair wages and working conditions and are a major political force that have traditionally backed the Democratic Party.

ALEC Education Bills Undermine Free, Universal Public Education

ALEC-influenced bills introduced in 2013 include legislation to:

  • Create or expand taxpayer-funded voucher programs, using bills such as the “Parental Choice Scholarship Act” (introduced in three states). Under many state constitutions, the use of public dollars to fund religious institutions has been rejected on separation-of-powers grounds, but the ALEC Great Schools Tax Credit Act, introduced in ten states in 2013, bypasses state constitutional provisions and offers a form of private school tuition tax credits that funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools with even less public accountability than with regular vouchers.
  • Carve-out vouchers for students with special needs, regardless of family income, through the “Special Needs Scholarship Program Act” (introduced in twelve states), which sends vulnerable children to for-profit schools not bound by federal and state legal requirements to meet a student’s special needs, as public schools must. A proposal in Wisconsin would have allocated up to $14,658 to a for-profit school for each special needs student.
  • Send taxpayer dollars to unaccountable online school providers through the “Virtual Schools Act,” introduced in three states, where a single teacher remotely teaches a “class” of hundreds of isolated students working from home. The low overhead for virtual schools certainly raises company profits, but it is a model few educators think is a appropriate for young children.
  • Offer teaching credentials to individuals with subject-matter experience but no education background with the Alternative Certification Act, introduced in seven states. The bill is part of ALEC’s ongoing effort to undermine unionized workers and promote a race to the bottom in wages and benefits for American workers.
  • Require that educators “teach the controversy” when it comes to topics like climate change – where the only disagreement is political, not scientific – through the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, introduced in five states.
  • Create opportunities to privatize public schools or fire teachers and principals via referendum with the controversial Parent Trigger Act (glorified in the flop film “Won’t Back Down”), introduced in twelve states. First passed in California, a modified Parent Trigger bill was brought to ALEC in 2010 by the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, which is perhaps best known for controversial billboards comparing people who believe in climate change to mass murderers like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
  • Create an appointed, state-level charter school authorizing board through the Next Generation Charter Schools Act, introduced in seven states, which effectively shields charters from democratic accountability. The legislation “would wrest control from school boards, and likewise from the community that elects those school boards,” Mead says, since it takes away their power to authorize charters in the community.

ALEC Corporations Reap the Rewards

Some of the for-profit corporations profiting from the ALEC Education privatization agenda include:

“Amplify,” the newly-created education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, parent company of Fox News. News Corp is on the ALEC Education Task Force. In 2010, News Corp hired former New York City chancellor Joel Klein to run its education division, which includes the for-profit education company formerly known as Wireless Generation. The firm has big plans for a specialized “Amplify Tablet” that would provide lesson plans, textbooks and testing to cash-in on new “Common Core” required state standards.

K12 Inc., the nation’s largest provider of online charter schools, where low-paid teachers manage as many as 250 students at a time and communicate with their pupils only through email and phone. The corporation, whose CEO Ron Packard received $5 million in total compensation in 2011, is on the ALEC Education Task Force and its lobbyist Lisa Gillis has Chaired ALEC’s Special Needs Subcommittee. According to a report in the New York Times , students in K12, Inc. schools often perform very poorly, and some K12 teachers claim that they have been encouraged to pass failing students so that the company can receive more reimbursement from states. K12 receives an average of between $5,500 and $6,000 for every student on its rosters – the same amount that would be spent for students attending a brick-and-mortar school, despite K12 not having to pay for cafeteria, gyms, busing, or heat and air conditioning – and much of K12’s profits are spent on advertising targeted at increasing enrollment, rather than on investments in education. At K12’s Agora Cyber Charter School, which produces more than 10% of the company’s revenue, nearly 60% of students are behind grade level in math, nearly 50% are behind in reading, and a third do not graduate on time.

Corinthian Colleges is a for-profit college chain that operates campuses under names like Everest, Heald, and WyoTech, in addition to offering degrees online. It has become notorious for aggressive recruiting practices and leaving students unprepared for the job market and saddled with massive student loan debts. In Milwaukee, for example, where a Corinthian Everest campus was financed with $11 million in city bonds, just 25% of students found jobs and over half dropped out; the campus closed two years after it opened. Nationally, over 40 percent of Corinthian’s students default on their loans, and only 60% of students complete their coursework. In June, Corinthian disclosed that it is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and has been subpoenaed by California’s Attorney General for its recruiting practices and financial responsibility.

Ideological Interests Lift the ALEC Agenda

An array of right-wing nonprofits also promote the school privatization agenda in ALEC.

The 501(c)(4) American Federation for Children and its 501(c)(3) wing the Alliance for Children, for example, have brought an array of privatization bills to ALEC and promoted the legislation across the country. The groups were organized and are funded by the billionaire DeVos family (heirs to the Amway fortune); Richard DeVos has received the ALEC “Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.” AFC’s top lobbyist is disgraced former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was convicted of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes and banned from the state Capitol for five years (though the charges were later reversed and dropped as part of a plea agreement ). Jensen represents the organization on the ALEC Education Task Force and has brought AFC bills to ALEC for adoption as “model” legislation. AFC spent at least $7 million electing privatization-friendly state legislators across the country in 2012, but reported far less to state election authorities.

In addition to the DeVos family foundations, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is one of the top school privatization funders in the country, spending over $31 million over the past eleven years promoting “school choice” nationwide, according to One Wisconsin Now; for decades, Bradley has also been a major ALEC funder. The foundation has over $600 million in assets and is headed by Michael Grebe, Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair.

Before Milwaukee became the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, Bradley bankrolled the groups that laid the groundwork. When the plan was challenged in Wisconsin courts, Bradley funded its legal defense, which included hiring Kenneth Starr – later known for pursuing Bill Clinton over Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky – to represent the state.

Average Americans Pay the Price

Originally promoted as a program for Milwaukee’s low-income students of color to have access to private education, the initial voucher program gained support from some African-American leaders and was pushed by State Representative Polly Williams, a Milwaukee Democrat. But last session, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker broadened vouchers to families with higher incomes, and in the 2013-2015 budget further expanded the program. “They have hijacked the program,” Williams says . “As soon as the doors open for the low income children, they’re trampled by the high income,” she said. “Now the upper crust have taken over.”

The laws have been sold to poor and minority communities as a way to close achievement gaps, but there is little evidence of success: in Wisconsin, data shows that students receiving vouchers perform no better, and in some cases worse than those attending public schools. Cash-for-kids programs have shown similar results in school districts across the country.

Reports have also emerged in Milwaukee and elsewhere of for-profit schools registering students, keeping them in class until just after the date where enrollment is counted for funding purposes, and then sending them back to public schools. In many cases those students have special needs the voucher schools claimed they could not satisfy.

Six-year-old Trinity Fitzer, who has anxiety and gastrointentinal problems, was attending Milwaukee’s Northwestern Catholic School in the 2011-2012 term on a voucher. After a few months, Northwestern Catholic informed Trinity’s mother that she was being “withdrawn” from the school for “continuing behavioral issues.” The school claimed that “withdrawal is the decision of the parent,” but Trinity’s mother said it was not her decision and “she didn’t have an option.

Jane Audette, a social worker at Hawthorne Elementary, a public school in Milwaukee, said the school receives several “cast-off” students every year from private schools like Northwestern Catholic. “What has happened over and over with Milwaukee’s Northwest Catholic is they will tell a parent, ‘Your child needs more than we can give your child, so we suggest you go down the street to Hawthorne.’”

And vouchers, testing, and school privatization have in many cases been offered as a substitute for grappling with the persistent structural issues that perpetuate achievement gaps.

“What has been forced on our communities is not reform at all: they are mediocre interventions,” said Jitu Brown, an education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization who spoke at Netroots Nation in June . “The only reason that mediocrity is accepted is because of the race of the children being served.

Privatizing Schools and Other Government Services

Brown puts the education reforms in the context of broader community disinvestment and austerity measures: cutting social programs and closing schools, police stations, hospitals, and other institutions that serve as commmunity anchors, while cherry picking and selling off the better institutions to private players.

And ALEC has played a key role in promoting this agenda. ALEC has sought to shrink the size of goverment by starving states of revenue, voucherizing critical programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and privatizing all aspects of government, from education to foster care to pensions to prisons.

When the ALEC’s cash-for-kids model is put before the voters, it is resoundingly rejected. In 27 statewide referenda on the topic, voters rejected vouchers on average 2-1. But as long as ALEC “models” continue to garner bipartisan support facilitated by corporate campaign contributions or are slipped into state budgets in the dead of night – ALEC will have continued success with the “transformation” of the American educational system into a profit-driven enterprise.

The ALEC Education agenda not only “converts a public good into something private,” says Mead, but private schools “don’t have the same responsibility [as public schools] to serve everybody, which diminishes public access, oversight and accountability.

“There is that saying, ‘democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.‘ The public school system is the same way,” Mead says. “It has problems, and can be better, but has served us pretty well for 150 years.

View the full list of 2013 ALEC education bills here .

ALEC Education Bills, 2013

Advice on how to open up a virtual charter school

North Carolina or other states opening up online charter schools should put enrollment caps and other limits to ensure focus is kept on quality education and not profits, a board member of Colorado online charter school said recently.

“We’re not interested in being the biggest,” said Brian Bissell, the board chair of the Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), an online school that recently moved to distance itself from the for-profit K12, Inc. that ran the school. “We want to deliver a high quality education.

The Colorado Virtual Academy, one of the largest online-based schools run by K12, Inc , decided this month to take back the school management functions from the Wall Street-traded online education company that runs public charter schools around the nation.

Bissell, whose three children attend the K12-run school, spoke with N.C. Policy Watch about why the board decided to scale back its relationship with K12 and gave some advice for states that have yet to see the controversial school option open.

North Carolina doesn’t currently have any online, or virtual, full-time schools, which allow students from kindergarten through high school to take their entire caseload through online interactions with teachers through their home computers. The state-run North Carolina Virtual Public School allows students around the state to take individual classes online, either to catch up with their peers or take advanced classes not offered in their home counties.

K12, Inc. is a national leader in the online education industry, but has been criticized for methods that critics argue aggressively put profits over quality and doesn’t serve students well. K12, Inc. defends its business, saying that the online option works for many families and that the low academic standings is partly attributed to a population of students that come to K12 at academic disadvantages.

A proposal to open a K12, Inc.-run school in North Carolina as a public charter school is tied up in litigation, and the company has employed several lobbyists to push its case at the N.C. General Assembly.

The Colorado charter school had graduation rates in the teens, and lost the sponsorship of the school district that sponsored it because of academic and fiscal difficulties at the school in recent years. The school will continue to use K12, Inc. for curriculum and management in the coming school year, but will not use the company for management in 2014-15, Bissell said.

“We are walking away from their management services,” Bissell said. “We are not going to be the school that’s focuses on quantity over quality.

He said that K12 delivered a quality product when it came to the actual educational programs, but that its turnkey management approach wasn’t one that the COVA board was comfortable with. The school also is operating on a one-year charter, and the break from K12, Inc. is a condition of the school’s continuing existence.

K12, Inc., will still be doing in business in the state. Another online-based charter school that plans on contracting with the company recently got approval from Colorado education officials to open up.

Bissell, who also said he owns K12, Inc. shares, said he had become concerns about the way COVA was operating in recent years and thought K12, Inc. was marketing the school too aggressively without having the capabilities to handle large numbers of students.

He said that if North Carolina is interested in opening a virtual charter school, leaders should insist on making sure the school has an enrollment cap, has a commitment to transparency and keeps education dollars inside the state.

Colorado Virtual Academy’s popularity meant that taxpayers education dollars were flowing out of the state to create profit for investors and for K12’s to open up schools in other markets, he said.

“A lot of our dollars went to fuel K12’s national growth,” Bissell said.

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Virtual charter school off of legislative radar … for the moment

Post on May 14, 2013 by Sarah Ovaska 1 Comment »

K12, Inc. bumped into another stumbling block in its attempt to break into North Carolina’s public education market, with a state legislator saying he will forgo legislation to put an online charter school’s application back in front of the State Board of Education.

State Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Greensboro, said he will pull language in a proposed committee substitute for House Bill 273 that references a virtual charter school application put forth by N.C. Learns, a non-profit organization that hoped to open up a charter school run by K12, Inc..

K12, Inc. is a Virginia-based company that runs online schools in 32 states, and attributes nearly 85 percent of its revenue to public dollars. Online, or virtual schools, allow students to take their classes through their home computers, instead of attending school through traditional classrooms. http://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/

The K12, Inc.-focused language was expected to be introduced at today’s House Education Committee.

At last week’s meeting, a proposed committee substitute that would have granted an automatic opening to the school was passed out before the committee meeting. Hardister took the issue off the day’s agenda after lobbyists for public education and a charter school group raised concerns with him about the proposed school.

“There are some questions that we need to answer about virtual charter schools before we move forward,” Hardister wrote in an email Monday about holding off on K12 legislation.

Among Hardister’s questions are whether state laws need to specifically state virtual charter schools can operate and what type of funding the schools should get, given that they don’t have the same type of overheard that schools with physical locations have.

“Clearly, virtual charter schools will not require the same level of funding as brick-and-mortar charter schools,” Hardister said.

Questions have been raised by critics about whether the company is more focused on finding profits for its Wall Street investors than delivering a quality education to schoolchildren. (The New York Times ran this lengthy piece in December 2011 about the issue.)

The company has had mixed results in other states, including Tennessee where the school performed well below the state average and in Colorado where graduation rates were in the teens. (North Carolina’s four-year graduation rate, to offer some comparison, is at 80 percent.)