April 16, 2014 Opinion » Bill Cope
Crumbling Foundations 4
They’re trying to sell us what!?
by Bill Cope
Six hundred billion dollars. Billion. Let me put that another way: $600,000,000,000.
Keep that figure in mind as we examine one reason so many rich people have the hots for such phenomena as charters schools, vouchers, online education and other alternatives to the American public school system that have sprung up–and no doubt will continue to–like dandelions in a distressed lawn.
I don’t mean to imply that all this concern and consternation over the condition of education in our country might be founded on lust for wealth only. I’m suggesting it is an explanation we can’t rule out. Because, let’s face it, as the hit/miss record for those alternatives to public ed. comes increasingly into focus, we find that there is little to get excited about, and possibly much to be alarmed about.
Online charters schools, for instance–and for our purposes here, let me focus on the performance of K12 Inc., one of the largest and most powerful corporate providers of online instruction. How confident would you be in K12 Inc.–as either a parent or a taxpayer–after hearing the following experiences of teachers who had worked for that company? In this case, from a former teacher at the K12 Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania who had been assigned 300 students:
“A huge portion of my students never showed up or did anything. I have no clue what happened to them, though I have no doubt Agora was charging the state for them.”
Or this, from an ex-teacher in the Colorado Virtual Academy, another K12 Inc. enterprise: “Three-quarters of my … kids never logged in, never completed any work. Never answered their emails or phone calls, yet they remained on my class rosters. … No one is monitoring this as far as I can see.”
These are not isolated incidents. According to a report from the Center for Media and Democracy, K12 is being sued by shareholders who are disenchanted with the gap between what that company has promised and what it has delivered. Now there’s something you’d want hanging on your child’s wall of fame, right?… a diploma from a joint like that.
Incidentally, thanks to Tom Luna, K12 is the provider to the Idaho Virtual Academy, this state’s largest online charter school.
Idaho isn’t the only state where charter schools are falling below expectations. But first, let’s re-examine what makes a charter school a charter school. Generally, they are portrayed as grassroots-generated antidotes to a failed public education system, formed by loving parents so insistent that their children receive better educations that they band together like outraged villagers marching to Frankenstein’s castle, clutching higher academic standards instead of pitchforks.
Yeah, that happens. But increasingly, the chartering is done by one of the 97 companies in America that are in the business of making a profit off these schools. (Michigan leads the country with 79 percent of its charter schools being run for-profit.)
Being a charter means that a school can pick and choose which students get in, and if your child is a dumb, misbehaving delinquent whom the best teacher in all of history couldn’t do anything with, don’t hold your breath until a charter school takes him in and turns him into the state debate champ.
Perhaps another way of looking at charters is to understand they are a means by which some parents can send their kids to a private school, only it’s being paid for by public funds. Yet in spite of being able to leave special-needs kids and low performers out of the mix–and in spite of sucking public education monies out of the public system, making it harder and harder for those schools to meet expectations–charters have been exposed for producing no better results, and in many cases worse results, than their public counterparts. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University issued a study four years ago that demonstrated only 17 percent of charters were outperforming comparable public schools–”comparable” in terms of the socio-economic status of the students–while 37 percent were doing worse.
The Albertson Foundation has been one the most enthusiastic supporters of charter schools in Idaho since our laws were changed in 1998 to allow charters. Since 1997, they have awarded $500 million in grants to Idaho public schools and charters. At present, for-profit charters haven’t been OK’d in Idaho. Still, when you give a bunch of tax money to a charter or public school, which then pays for online material from profit-driven companies, we have to question how meaningful it is to claim there are no for-profit charters in Idaho.
Plus, we sense that with a little more softening up of our state leaders, it is just a matter of time before for-profit outfits come flooding into Idaho like locusts. I repeat, there are currently 97 companies in America whose motivation it is to turn a profit off of students.
Incidentally, last we heard, the investment wing of the Albertson family (Alscott, Inc.) owned 355,000 shares of K12 stock.
Oh… and about that $600 billion–billion–I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, that is the combined total of what the United States spent in 2011 to educate its public school children. Can you even imagine an investor who wouldn’t go to any lengths to get access to an ocean of cash like that? And before we let vested interests scare us into handing such an enormous and endless reservoir of public funds over to them, we need to examine the state of America’s public schools with a mind open to the possibility that maybe they’re not as bad off as we’re continually being told they are. That is what I intend to do next week.
More Bill Cope »
Readers also liked…
Showing 1-7 of 7
Add a comment
Why is for profit a bad thing? What is it about making money, to pay your bill and not be subsidized by taxpayer money that frightens you people?
For the record Charter Schools are a joke and virtual schools are even worse. Kids need to be in school somewhere. And the bad ones will fail… like they have been doing. That is how for profit works… if you do something poorly, you fail, you die, you go away. If you do it well, people come knocking on your door and want more of it.
If parents want to choose where to send their kids, and they send them to a virtual school and their kids fail… it’s their problem. The Parents.
You want to fix this problem? You need to fix the single parent family’s that are running rampent in this country. Fix the family and you fix a lot more than education.
Posted by luvmy45 on 04/16/2014 at 8:44 AM
According to the US Dept of Education… since 1970 the test scores for Reading, Math and Science have not increased, enrollment in schools has been relatively flat since 1970 as well…. yet the funding has increased over 100% on Teacher and administration costs.
So here is the question… we keep throwing more money at our existing education system, and the outcomes are not changing. This is according to the Dept of Education.
So tell me again, how is this different than the definition of insanity? Something needs to change…
Posted by luvmy45 on 04/16/2014 at 11:37 AM
Simply saying “According to the US Department of Education” does not make your statistics any more meaningful or persuasive, nor does it provide support for whatever logic you have used to arrive at the conclusion that we are “throwing money” at the system without changing outcomes. Cite your sources.
Posted by Kevin Wilson on 04/16/2014 at 3:41 PM
What’s wrong with for-profit schools replacing public ones? As impossible as it may seem, it is actually the case that not every service the government supervises is an appropriate target for commodification. The free market and competition simply are not appropriate tools for doing what public schools were created to do. The nurturing of human minds is not replaceable by any process similar to culling potatoes. The use of test scores, zero tolerance policies, and under servicing of special needs students is a culling process. We have three issues challenging public education and none of them are addressed by choice or technology.
1. Poverty. 2. Poverty. 3. Unstable, inequitable funding. Anyone proposing to “fix” public schools who isn’t focused on these is not serious about educating children.
Posted by Miron Boland on 04/16/2014 at 5:48 PM
What test scores are you referring to? Standardized tests weren’t used until 2002 (other than SAT/ACT). As far as enrollment, your numbers are crap. US population in 1970 was 203.2 million. In 2010 it was 308.7 million. There is no way enrollment has stayed the same.
Posted by Jerel Thomas on 04/16/2014 at 7:29 PM
US Department of Education, “Digest of Education Statistics” and NAEP Tests, “Long Term Trends, 17-year olds”
Then there are several reports by the Cato Institute about how education systems are lying to us about what the true costs of education are and how poorly the system is doing.
But that’s not my words or opinion. So believe what you want. Educate yourselves, it’s enlightening.
Education systems are not created equal, get over it, this isn’t a utopia. Good teachers are drawn to good schools and good neighborhoods, that have supportive parents and intact families. You can’t force a good teacher to goto a crappy school and expect them to succeed.
The family unit is the problem in education, fix it and most everything else will fall in place.
Posted by luvmy45 on 04/16/2014 at 8:25 PM
Is this what you mean by inequitable funding?
“86M Full-Time Private-Sector Workers Sustain 148M Benefit Takers”
You cannot sustain a system with more takers than givers…period… it doesn’t work, it’s call socialism, and every time socialism has been tried in history it has failed, so why are you expecting it to succeed this time?
Posted by luvmy45 on 04/17/2014 at 7:48 AM
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7
Subscribe to this thread