Odd commentary considering the writer is working for the company who screws up kids. 

An election year when school choice is ignored

By Nate Davis, contributor    

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It’s bad enough that during two straight weeks of Republican and Democratic conventions, we never really grasped a true sense of what newly nominated presidential contenders would do to improve the uncertain state of K-12 education in America.

Worse — especially since then — is that we have yet to see a solid reform-driven or innovation-focused commitment from candidates as the solution to our education crisis. A sorely needed exchange on parental choice and access to creative online learning platforms is, perhaps, the most significant missing policy deep-dive since the presidential cycle began in earnest over a year ago. For the most part, presidential candidates have steered clear of any focus on choice in K-12 as a main prescription to constant problems plaguing our school systems and challenging our kids.

That’s unfortunate, since parents are voters, too.

It is rather mysterious considering the sheer size, cost and long-term destructive impact of the K-12 crisis. Yet, as candidates on the campaign trail bludgeoned each other over everything from salacious tweets, badly placed emails and hand sizes, little is said on how policymakers could intervene to save the nation’s struggling elementary, middle and high-school students. The intervention is clearly found in school districts embracing new, progressive education models that meet the needs of future societies and workforces — models such as blended experiential and online learning in and, yes, outside the conventional classroom. Models, such as charter schools, that offer parents the options they need to ensure their child’s success in an increasingly competitive global environment.

That battle is no more urgent for any group than it is for our nation’s most underserved and historically distressed: from black and Latino youth to low-income and struggling working-class communities already battered by the effects (and after-effects) of recession. The last thing already economically challenged black or brown students and their parents should worry about is the quality of their education.

Likewise, those high-achieving students, rural students, bullied students and others are desperate for choices that allow them to excel in their education. For example: I met a student from West Virginia last week who enrolled in online courses that she could not take in her local, excellent but small neighborhood school. She and her parents were told by the guidance counselor that the courses she wanted were unavailable. The eventual valedictorian for her class, she took additional courses from a for-profit online provider that allowed her to achieve higher SAT scores and take courses otherwise unavailable to her. There were even language courses available that she would otherwise only take in college. Without choice, this high-achieving student — like hundreds of thousands of others — would not continue to excel and would be limited in what local schools could offer.

Clearly, you can’t have a conversation about improving the quality of life for underserved, diverse populations or high-achieving students unless you pose workable ideas on education. You can’t pose workable ideas on education or expect the condition of underserved youth to improve if you refuse to put school choice and access to new modes of learning in the mix.

Major openings for the presidential candidates to discuss choice and online education as a primary learning tool are either conveniently dismissed, lost in political posturing or altogether forgotten. We clearly can’t rely on the articulation of a policy vision from the Republican nominee (for obvious reasons). But when we look to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonEx-GM CEO: I’ve always voted Republican until now Election reveals Paul Ryan to be worst speaker in U.S. history Dem Senate candidate knocks Rubio for Trump support MORE for a thoughtful approach on issues such as parental choice, we find her either taking the side of unionized teachers (even if it contradicts earlier, steadfast support for charter schools) or completely missing those grand opportunities to present it as a viable long-term beacon of educational hope.

Nowhere was that unfortunate oversight on vivid display than at her recent appearance before a joint meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. When offered a few moments to lay out her policy vision for black and brown progress in America, Clinton left out school choice and relegated digital learning to merely PCs in the classroom.

Nor did the assemblage of esteemed African-American and Latino reporters, talk-show hosts, editors and producers ask her about it.

Unfortunately, online, radio and cable outlets are so focused on the latest campaign gaffe or doubled down faux pas that the plight of school children gets left behind in the political dust-up.

Still, campaigns refuse any raised or sustained debate on choice as a tangible way to address our ongoing K-12 crisis with any tangible solutions. Few want to take a firm position supporting parental preference in education, despite the vast number of voting parents who want (and need) it. Most seem oblivious to the need for expanded and innovative options for K-12 students, despite an abundance of evidence suggesting online learning, blended classrooms and access to multifaceted educational environments are exactly what’s essential for an increasingly diverse American landscape.

Yet, when examining many of the larger national polls, parents — especially black and Latino parents — are demanding more choice and creative, digital learning in and outside the classroom. In a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools poll released this year, 80 percent of parents supported some form of educational choice, including 63 percent of black parents and 55 percent of Hispanic parents. A Pathways/YouGov survey on school preferences found that black and Hispanic parents were "more likely" to consider "integrated use of technology" when education options were available.

For these population groups, education is perceived as the most effective pathway to upward socioeconomic mobility. The Pew Research Center shows that 66 percent of Americans identify education as a top 10 issue motivating choices this election cycle. In the most recent weekly YouGov/Economist survey, education still ranks among the top-five issues (out of 15), with more African-Americans and Latinos placing it as a "most important issue" than whites. For voters under 30, education is the top concern (partly out of struggles over student debt, and partly out of recent experiences with troubled school systems). That aligns with a recent GenForward joint poll where education was a top-three concern for voters ages 18 to 30, especially voters of color.

This is not much of a surprise. Education is a greater priority to individuals who find themselves historically disadvantaged or farther down the income ladder. To those faced with fewer resources and access to wealth, education is increasingly respected as the ultimate driver of future success — and choice is a chief path to that goal. Yet, presidential nominees and their parties have failed to promote a vision of what will make K-12 education better, even as the shifting demographic environment continues to demand such.

That school choice is not a headlining issue of our time rests not on the shoulders of voters. Elected officials, policymakers, pundits and those who constitute the rest of our active political and media class must aggressively tackle that discussion. We need a debate and movement where educational options are plentiful and innovation in (and outside) the classroom is the norm rather than the exception.

Davis is executive chairman of K12 Inc., a technology-based education company and leading provider of online learning programs to schools across the U.S.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Agora teachers vote to unionize

by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER

Teachers at Agora Cyber Charter School – the second largest cyber in the state – have voted overwhelmingly to become unionized, a new local affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association announced late Tuesday afternoon.

The National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia, which tallied the mail ballots, said that teachers at the cyber based in King of Prussia had voted 312-46 in favor of being represented by the Agora Cyber Education Association.

Union organizers said that the vote came after a 10-month campaign that focused on changes to working conditions without notice and lack of teacher involvement in decisions about curriculum, classroom objectives or learning conditions for students.

“The teachers have demonstrated through this election that it’s time for change at Agora,” said Jill Phillips, chair of the middle school social studies department and member of the organizing committee.

“It’s time to work alongside administration and achieve a contract that ensures everyone is on the same page and we are doing what is best for our students,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Agora did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Union organizers said they will hold a transition meeting, elect officers and begin work on collective bargaining.

In early February, the Agora board had laid off scores of teachers, citing financial problems it blamed on the lack of a state budget.

The board initially refused to say how many staffers were let go, but in a Feb. 29 letter to parents and staff said that 136 jobs had been eliminated for a savings of $4.5 million.

Agora enrolls 8,500 students across the state who receive online instruction in their homes.

Teachers at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Midland, Pa., are also unionized.

martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789 @marwooda

This comes from “In the Public Interest,” an organization that reports on outsourcing and privatization, which is usually NOT in the public interest.

Donald Cohen writes:

As we approach Election Day, a number of governors in tight races are finding that privatizing public services isn’t good politics. But it may be good for campaign fundraisers seeking donations from corporations that want government contracts.

A new report released by the Center for Media and Democracy highlights the intensive efforts of governors seeking re-election to privatize important public services to private firms. Time after time, outsourcing has gone awry, generating worse outcomes for the public, scandals, lawsuits, and scorching headlines that are impacting the campaigns. The report includes examples from Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Wisconsin.

Here are examples from the report:

• In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder outsourced prison food service to Aramark after the company spent half a million dollars on lobbying. The contract has been plagued by scandals, including maggots, employees smuggling drugs and having sex with inmates, and even murder-for-hire allegations.

• In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has outsourced millions in legal contracts to major campaign contributors to defend ALEC-style voter ID legislation and other policies. The governor also attempted to privatize liquor sales, which would have benefited another set of deep-pocketed contributors like retail giant Walmart.
 Walmart donated $33,500 to Corbett’s campaign.

• In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has overseen a massive expansion of for-profit online schooling to companies that spent millions on lobbying. Scott signed a bill requiring every student to take online courses and tests benefiting firms like K12 Inc.

The outcomes of these races could very well be an important referendum on outsourcing and privatization. We’ll be watching.


Donald Cohen

Executive Director

In the Public Interest

via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1suTZ94

Did Deval Patrick Sell Out to Profiteers? | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Did Deval Patrick Sell Out to Profiteers?

Diane Ravitch's blog[1]

A site to discuss better education for all

A reader asks: did Deval Patrick sell out?

I feel ashamed for Deval. I am one of his many, many progressive supporters, and we’re all baffled by how he got into this situation. I worked harder for his election than I did even for Obama, and I never doubted his integrity or strength.

Through all the vicious attacks on him during that first campaign, he stayed steady and clear. Remember the white-woman-in-dark-parking-lot ad? I left work every day and went straight to unlock the little campaign office in my own town, as more and more volunteers came forward and signed on. It got very ugly; there were smear attacks on his family members. Even in Massachusetts, after Romney and Celluci, he seemed like a long shot. But Deval brought out the best in my community, and turned it blue again.

On the morning after the election, I came in to my classroom and told my diverse and hopeful students, “The American Dream is For You.” They cheered. A couple of them even cried. Remember, this was before Obama ever ran for president.

Later, after I had chaired a citizens online task force on ethics and lobbying reform, I sat next to him at our summary report meeting so he could answer our recommendations (for the cameras) by saying he’d veto the state budget if the legislators didn’t send him his groundbreaking (we thought at the time) ethics and lobbying reform with it.

After the meeting, I confronted him with his failure to get the state version of the Dream Act implemented (he’d actually tried the executive order route, but had to withdraw it). I told him about my students, and he really did tear up. His determination and frustration were real.

State Speaker DiMasi had been indicted for kickbacks on state contracts for the insurance and education data warehouses. He was convicted, but the investigation went no further. Edubuisiness had a lock on the state DOE, until Deval stood up to the Boston Globe and appointed a progressive PTA leader (Ruth Kaplan) to the board.

Then, when he ran for re-election, Deval let K12 and other for-profit education companies run a fundraiser for him at the Children’s Museum. K12 now has a thriving online charter business operating out of Greenfield, and Deval is supporting Mosaica Boston’s forced takover-turnarounds of Boston Public Schools. A memo leaked from his Secretary of Education once argued they had to bow to an illegal charter school placement, against the will of the community, or the Globe would attack them.

I swear I don’t understand how he could sell out public education for their measly political support. Like Obama, he got his chance by being admitted to a luxurious prep academy, so maybe he just can’t untangle his own conflicts about private schools, and it clouds his understanding. I know he isn’t a coward. I know he has a fine mind, and I still believe his life is dedicated to the same mission as my own. I just can’t believe his is a calculated betrayal of the public trust we placed in him, in the face of this dangerous hour for the future of democratic governance.

K12: Talk of hiring Idaho’s Luna ‘just ridiculous speculation

Sen. Branden Durst’s claim that Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is scheming to get a job with the nation’s largest provider of online primary and secondary education prompted push back from the company Wednesday.

“I read that a state senator recently claimed that K12 is planning to hire Mr. Luna,” said Jeff Kwitowski, K12′s senior vice president for corporate communications, in an email early this afternoon. “For the record, that is not true and any suggestion otherwise is just ridiculous speculation.

On Tuesday, Durst alleged that Luna fibbed on Monday when he told the Statesman that he will run for a third term in 2014. In a guest opinion, Durst said that Luna has already told top staff he won’t seek re-election and wrote that Luna will “likely be hired” by either K12 or Education Networks of America. ENA is the Tennessee-based firm that won a controversial long-term contract to provide wireless services in Idaho schools. Luna signed the contract last week, over the objections of some lawmakers.

K12 Inc., a Virginia-based online company that operates the publicly-funded Idaho Virtual Academy, has supported Luna’s campaigns. In 2010, K12, its employees and major stockholders spent about $44,000 supporting Luna’s re-election.

In 2011, Luna told me he convinced K12 to sponsor Butch Otter’s Governor’s Cup Scholarship tournament. Luna said of CEO and founder Ron Packard: “I know Ron well. He comes to the Governor’s Cup and we play golf. Sometimes he comes to Idaho and maybe we’ll go to dinner.


About Dan Popkey

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature.Dan has a bachelor’s in political science from Santa Clara University and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976.In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project “Big Read.” He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.