K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from "Non-Managed" Schools

Submitted by Dustin Beilke on January 7, 2016 – 9:01am

If you were a public school and Wall Street didn’t like you that might not seem like such a big deal. What do financiers know about educating children? It’s a big deal, however, if you are K12, Inc., and enticing investors to buy into your low-cost, high yield "cyber school" idea is key to your bottom line.

At K12, Inc.’s stockholder meeting in December, its own investors criticized the schools’ lamentable academic performance and voted down its executives’ proposed salary increases. This is just the latest piece of bad news, which has been coming in rafts for K12 since 2013.

As K12’s executives were being rebuffed by stockholders inside the law offices of Latham & Watkins, in Washington, D.C., outside K12 was picketed by members of the California Teachers Association for more or less the same list of educational shortcomings, as Diane Ravitch noted.

Some editorial boards crow when they receive criticism from two opposing sides of a controversial issue. "If both sides are unhappy we must be doing something right" is the familiar refrain, as if there are only ever two sides to an issue or the sides have equal merit.

In the case of K12, however, it is hard not to wonder how much longer the company can withstand this loud unanimity of animus–even a firm Wall Street insiders like convicted fraudster Michael Milken helped launch, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in "From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers with Phantom Students and Failing Grades."

No major supporters have yet publicly called for pulling the plug, but anti-public education zealots like the billionaire Walton family and the Koch brothers have plenty of other places to invest in to try to bring down "government schools."

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

In its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, the advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. said K12 exemplifies a "substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results." Glass Lewis gave the company an "F" for how it paid its executives compared to peers.

In 2015, K12 CEO Nathaniel Davis was making $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and $478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their "performance." (See more details on their total compensation in the pdf uploaded below.)

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons CMD has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives</a–<comes from Americans' state or federal tax dollars.

K12 Inc. also pays each member of its Board of Directors between $155,000 and $216,000 annually for a few hours of work each year—far more than local school board members make for much more time spent in general. (See uploaded K12 proxy filings below for the details.)

While K12’s promoters love to mention that it is a publicly traded company, it is also trading at its lowest stock price since 2010, down 75 percent from its September 2013 peak.

Meanwhile, a new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charters do a very poor job of educating children. In general, students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. And there are only 180 days of instruction in most public school years.

Enrollment has also dropped almost 5 percent from its peak. No less a business authority than Bloomberg Business investigative reporter John Hechinger presented grim prospects for K12 as of late 2014, and no one has revised them upward.

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

This decrease in business has come despite massive advertising and marketing expenditures by the virtual schools industry. K12 has spent untold millions in public funds on ads—a luxury budget item that traditional public schools are not permitted even when competing with K12 for students.

It spent at least $20 million on ads in 2012 alone, but it has not publicly disclosed ad spending in recent years even as its ads have become more ubiquitous in markets like Wisconsin and Arizona, for example. K12 does not disclose its ad budget in its public annual report.

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

K12 also spends taxpayer money lobbying state and federal officials. It recently got a seat, for example, on the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where for years it has also paid for a seat and vote on ALEC’s "Education and Workforce Development" Task Force, which advances a "cash for kids" lobbying agenda.

ALEC corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for such access to lawmakers, and K12 has also paid many thousands of dollars to underwrite some of ALEC’s docket of events for legislators and lobbyists.

Through the ALEC Task Force, K12 has actually had an equal vote with state legislators on so-called "model" bills to divert taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools toward the objectives of ALEC’s private sector funders, to help their bottom-lines and/or legislative agenda.

ALEC’s "Virtual Public Schools Act," for example, even allows virtual schools to be paid the same amount per pupil as traditional public schools even though operations like K12 have no bricks and mortar school house or desks or air-conditioning or gyms, etc., to maintain.

As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

"In 2004 when the ‘model’ bill was drafted and approved, both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy were part of the ‘School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force, according to an archived version of ALEC’s website from February 2005. The subcommittee recommended six bills for adoption, including the ‘Virtual Public Schools Act.’ According to ALEC, the bill was drafted by Bryan Flood of K12 along with Mickey Revenaugh of Connections Academy, then-Colorado Representative Don Lee (now a lobbyist for K12, see [below]), ‘and the rest of the Subcommittee.’" (Connections is now part of Pearson PLC, a British mega-corporation headquartered in London.)

K12’s reps at ALEC Education Task Force meetings have been its Senior VP for Government Affairs (lobbying), Bryan Flood, along with its VP for Government Affairs, Don Lee, and its Senior Director of Government Affairs, Bob Fairbank.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is co-chaired by Utah state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-11). Through the ALEC corporate bill mill, Stephenson has even done a roadshow with K12’s Don Lee to drive more business to K12 through legislation. Given his advocacy of efforts to divert tax dollars from traditional public schools to charters and virtual schools, some press in Utah have questioned whether Stephenson is a public servant or a lobbyist for outside interests. (There is no way to independently verify whether Stephenson has actually ever invested in K12 or Pearson, or not.)

Notably, Lee and Fairbank are both former Colorado state legislators who took the revolving door out of public service into well-paid gigs, like peddling what K12 is selling to legislatures across the country. And, the head of their lobbying shop, Flood, is the former flack for then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who is now pulling down big bucks for sitting on K12’s Board of Directors: $55,000 in cash plus $100,000 in K12 stock for a few hours of his time last year.

Making "Friends" Everywhere K12 Goes….

Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin are not the only states where K12 is active and facing criticism. The "Ohio Virtual Academy," for example, which accounted for 10 percent of K12’s revenue in 2014, received failing grades on a state report card for student test-score progress and graduation rates. A state analysis found that only 37 percent of K12’s Ohio ninth graders earned diplomas within four years.

K12’s operations in California have produced similar results, as In the Public Interest (ITPI) has documented, despite K12’s efforts to blame the state. (CMD has partnered with ITPI on research previously.)

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12, and in Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman called for shuttering the Tennessee Virtual Academy because it had test results "in the bottom of the bottom tier" and is an "abject failure."

Altogether, K12 has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also ruled last April that prospective students from 24 K12 Inc. high schools can no longer count credits toward athletic scholarships.

A pro-union decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board no doubt came as more bad news for K12’s brass. The board ruled that the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the exclusive bargaining agent of the more than 750 teachers at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA). Teachers have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for CAVA’s 15,000 students.

CAVA teachers had been calling for improvements for years. In March 2015 a study of CAVA by ITPI called for better oversight. In June 2015, CTA filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California.

K12 Hoping "Non-Managed" Schools Will Save It?

While no one is publicly calling for K12 to shut down, K12 itself is "diversifying its portfolio" in an apparent effort to ease out of the online charter school business.

K12 has built its brand by operating "managed schools" in which K12 runs and profits from all of the programs at a particular K12 school. In a managed school, the company does all of the teaching, curriculum, assessment for the customers—er, students—who choose it over attending a public school or participating in a traditional home-schooling arrangement.

The new revenue stream K12 is pioneering is in what it is now calling "non-managed schools" in which K12 sells the digital content and platform for a school for some other company or entity to run (and be responsible for the results). Non-managed programs have been growing by leaps and bounds as managed virtual schools have fallen on hard times.

The only problem with this model is that managed schools still bring in much more money than the non-managed kind. Some managed schools, for example, bring in $1,849 per student while non-managed schools bring in only $462 per pupil on average.

But, getting some revenue without being responsible for results may be the way for the future of K12: an analysis of K12 figures comparing September 2015 to the prior year showed that enrollment at "managed" virtual schools was declining 12 percent while it is increasing 34.5 percent at "non-managed" schools.

Non-management could take profiting from taking money out of traditional public schools without real accountability to a new level for K12.

CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this report.

k12inc 2.pdf

Ramsey wants to give virtual school one last chance | Nashville Post

Ramsey wants to give virtual school one last chance

Published April 22, 2015 by Andrea Zelinski

A last ditch effort to keep open a floundering virtual school failed Tuesday in the Senate, although Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he hopes to convince the administration to cut the school one last break.

“I firmly believe that that school needs to be given another chance,” Ramsey told the Post. “Now, one more year is all I’d give them. If they didn’t have the achievement then, I’d cut their legs out from under them, so to speak.”

Senators voted 17-13 against an amendment sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley to give Union County-based Tennessee Virtual Academy a one-year reprieve to avoid closure if the school’s scores improve this year. The amendment, proposed on the floor and not timely filed, needed a two-thirds majority.

However, Niceley attempted to add the language to a separate bill sponsored by Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham that would allow students from outside the school zone to attend a school taken over by the state Achievement School District.

“This school has actually taken advantage of these students,” said Dolores Gresham, chair of the Education Committee and an advocate for school choice who fought off Niceley’s amendment. “Fairness, compassion and common sense will tell you that these students have not been served well. To let it go on for another year is outrageous.”

According to the state report card, fewer than one in four students are on grade level in math, and 42 percent are at or above grade level in reading language arts. Growth in student test scores ranked one out of five, the lowest score possible.

Proponents for the school argue Tennessee Virtual Academy, run by for-profit operator K12 Inc., shouldn’t be treated any differently than traditional public schools which can fall among the lowest-performing of the state but not face closure. They argue the school should have one more year to increase test scores.

Ramsey said he walked into the Senate planning to support Niceley’s effort to give the school one last chance. Ramsey acknowledged his vote in favor probably would have garnered a few more votes in the legislation’s favor, but said he changed his mind after the debate twisted in procedural knots after learning Niceley's had other ways to bring his measure to the floor instead of amending another member's bill. The practice is legal under the Senate rules but was frowned upon in debate Tuesday night.

“I'm still, honestly, going to work with the administration to see if we can't get them to extend another year,” said Ramsey.

Three Families Sue to Keep Tennessee Virtual Academy Open

Three families of children with disabilities sued to prevent the state from closing down the Tennessee Virtual Academy.TVA is one of the lowest performing schools in the state. The virtual charter school is operated by K12 Inc. the for-profit corporation founded by Michael and Lloyd Milken and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.Under state law Tennessees education commissioner has the authority to close the school if it ranks among the worst performers for three consecutive years. The school has consistently been ranked 1 on a 5-point scale with 1 being the worst and 5 the best since it opened in 2011. Critics have called it a failure and said the for-profit corporation that provides the curriculum is more interested in making money than educating children.It would be interesting to learn who is paying the legal fees for these families. via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1DN0sIu

Nashville Public Radio | Will Tennessee Continue Allowing Virtual Schools To Operate Statewide?

Will Tennessee Continue Allowing Virtual Schools To Operate Statewide?

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

K-12 students end up getting most of their instruction online, though the youngest grades spend less time in front of a computer. Credit: K-12 via Facebook

This year, Tennessee lawmakers must decide whether or not to stay in the statewide cyber school business. The legislative act that paved the way for the troubled Tennessee Virtual Academy needs to be renewed.

For-profit virtual school operator K12 Inc. needed state law changed in order to pull students from all 95 counties. House Education Committee chairman Harry Brooks sponsored the bill in 2011.

Since then, Tennessee Virtual Academy has enrolled thousands of students and posted such bad scores that it’s on the brink of forced closure. But Brooks points to other smaller virtual schools performing well, and some have students from outside the typical geographic boundaries. Shelby County, which has 150 students, has opened enrollment statewide.

“My argument would be do you want to continue what Memphis is doing?” Brooks asks. “You have other virtual academies that have students from within their district and from outside their district.”

Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), who is a member of the House Education Committee, says he would “hate to just wipe them all off.”

“But we’ve got to do something about this Tennessee Virtual Academy,” he says. “What a mess.”

Pitts says there’s nothing wrong with virtual education. But the legislature should consider adding oversight before extending the law another four years. He suggests enrollment caps and allowing the state to intervene after one year of poor test results instead of two.

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services – even noble organizations – will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.

John Hechinger, one of the narion’s top investigative reporters, here presents a balanced but nonetheless devastating overview of K12 Inc., the for-profit virtual charter chain listed on the Néw York Stock Exchange.


K12 is the biggest purveyor of online homeschooling, paid for with public funds drawn away from traditional public schools.


This approach may be effective for some studentsstudents training to be athletes or performers, students with illnesses–but K12 reaches out to recruit as many as it can.


“Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.

While the company says its investments in academic quality are starting to pay off, once-soaring enrollment at the more than 60 public schools it manages has dropped almost 5 percent. Targeted by short sellers, who benefit from a company’s decline, K12 shares have tumbled by two-thirds since reaching a near-record high in Septeber 2013…..”


“Of the full-time online schools assigned ratings by their states, only one-third were considered academically acceptable in 2012-2013, the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado reported this year. The percentage of K12 students achieving proficiency on state math and reading tests is generally below state averages, according to the company’s 2014 academic report.


“Ohio Virtual Academy, which accounts for 10 percent of K12’s annual revenue, received failing grades on a state report card last year for student test-score progress and graduation rates. Only 37 percent of its ninth graders receive diplomas within four years.”


Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12. Tennessee may soon cancel its Tennessee Virtual Academy.


“In Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman is moving to close a K12-managed school unless it can improve results by the end of this school year. Tennessee Virtual Academy has test results “in the bottom of the bottom tier” and is an “abject failure” in improving student outcomes, Huffman said in a telephone interview.”
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog » K12 Inc. http://ift.tt/1t39mGh

John Hechinger, one of the narion’s top investigative reporters, here presents a balanced but nonetheless devastating overview of K12 Inc., the for-profit virtual charter chain listed on the Néw York Stock Exchange.


K12 is the biggest purveyor of online homeschooling, paid for with public funds drawn away from traditional public schools.


This approach may be effective for some studentsstudents training to be athletes or performers, students with illnesses–but K12 reaches out to recruit as many as it can.


“Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.

While the company says its investments in academic quality are starting to pay off, once-soaring enrollment at the more than 60 public schools it manages has dropped almost 5 percent. Targeted by short sellers, who benefit from a company’s decline, K12 shares have tumbled by two-thirds since reaching a near-record high in Septeber 2013…..”


“Of the full-time online schools assigned ratings by their states, only one-third were considered academically acceptable in 2012-2013, the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado reported this year. The percentage of K12 students achieving proficiency on state math and reading tests is generally below state averages, according to the company’s 2014 academic report.


“Ohio Virtual Academy, which accounts for 10 percent of K12’s annual revenue, received failing grades on a state report card last year for student test-score progress and graduation rates. Only 37 percent of its ninth graders receive diplomas within four years.”


Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12. Tennessee may soon cancel its Tennessee Virtual Academy.


“In Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman is moving to close a K12-managed school unless it can improve results by the end of this school year. Tennessee Virtual Academy has test results “in the bottom of the bottom tier” and is an “abject failure” in improving student outcomes, Huffman said in a telephone interview.”
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1t39mGh

Two apply to run virtual public charter schools | Under the Dome Blog | NewsObserver.com

Two apply to run virtual public charter schools

Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 22, 2014

2014-10-22T22:40:57Z

The legislature ordered two virtual charter schools be approved for pilot programs beginning next year. The State Board of Education put out the call for applicants and got two responses.

The North Carolina Virtual Academy, which would contract with the for-profit company K12, and North Carolina Connections Academy applied.

Like traditional charters, the virtual charters would be public schools using taxpayer money to educate students. But class work would be done online.

K12 has tried to get a foothold in the state for years. NC Learns, a nonprofit that would have used K12’s curriculum, had a lawsuit to force the state to let it operate. K12 has been controversial other states.

The Tennessee Education Commissioner ordered the Tennessee Virtual Academy run by K12 to close next year because of low student growth.

North Carolina Connections Academy has tried to gain approval through the traditional State Board process. The board rejected its application this year, but there was some talk among members that it might make sense for the Connections Academy to apply as a pilot project.

An education consultant with the charter school office in the state Department of Public Instruction, said the board would still go through its applicant reviews even though there are only two applicants.

The board is scheduled to talk about the applicants in December and vote in January. The approved schools are scheduled to open in August.

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Tennessee Virtual Academy: Bad Results, No Accountability

In their rush to privatize public education in Tennessee, the Governor and the legislature enacted legislation in 2011 authorizing the Tennesee Virtual Academy, an online charter school run by K12 Inc.


K12 is a for-profit corporation started by Michael and Lloyd Milken. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It earns millions for its owners but has received bad reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The National Education Policy Center wrote a devastating critique of its academic results, as did CREDO in a report about Pennsylvania. In that state, virtual charter schools do worse than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools.


Nonetheless, Tennessee wanted to be in the vanguard of the privatization movement. K12 partnered with Union County public schools, which collect 4% of K12’s proceeds. K12 pockets the other 96%, which is drawn from public schools across the state. The K12 virtual school is one of the lowest performing schools in the state, but Commissioner Kevin Huffman lacks the grit to shut it down. Despite its poor results, enrollment continues to grow. The company uses public dollars for recruiting, marketing, and advertising, and parents are persuaded by the sales pitch and the free computer to try homeschooling. Unfortunately, students often lack the motivation to stick with the program, and many drop out and return to their local public school, minus the state tuition grant.


Instead of shutting the school down, after three years of poor results, Commissioner Huffman announced that he would not permit the next entering class of 626 students to enroll. If the TVA were a public school, it would have its doors nailed shut. But Huffman decided to give TVA more time and to ignore its dismal results.


In a pattern that is typical for virtual charter schools, the students at the TVA have low test scores and high attrition. When the students return to their public schools, they have low proficiency. Meanwhile, their home district loses money, and K12’s bottom line grows.


Meanwhile a Washington-based organization that advocates for school choice blasted Huffman. The Center for Educational Reform said:


“The Center for Education Reform strongly condemns the recent directive by the Tennessee Education Commissioner to un-enroll 626 students from the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), denying them their school choice rights.


“It’s an outrage that these 626 legally enrolled students are now being forcefully turned away, just two weeks before the start of the school year,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “This represents an unreasonable attempt by Commissioner Huffman to virtually block the schoolhouse door.”


To CER, school choice is far more important than school quality. No matter how low the test scores or the graduation rate, no matter how high the attrition rate, CER will fight for students’ right to choose low-quality schools. How this is supposed to improve U.S. education is a mystery.


Except for a small number of students with compelling reasons to stay home instead of going to school, virtual charter schools are a waste of public funds.

















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1kcQ97d

Tennessee Virtual Academy: Bad Results, No Accountability

In their rush to privatize public education in Tennessee, the Governor and the legislature enacted legislation in 2011 authorizing the Tennesee Virtual Academy, an online charter school run by K12 Inc.


K12 is a for-profit corporation started by Michael and Lloyd Milken. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It earns millions for its owners but has received bad reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The National Education Policy Center wrote a devastating critique of its academic results, as did CREDO in a report about Pennsylvania. In that state, virtual charter schools do worse than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools.


Nonetheless, Tennessee wanted to be in the vanguard of the privatization movement. K12 partnered with Union County public schools, which collect 4% of K12’s proceeds. K12 pockets the other 96%, which is drawn from public schools across the state. The K12 virtual school is one of the lowest performing schools in the state, but Commissioner Kevin Huffman lacks the grit to shut it down. Despite its poor results, enrollment continues to grow. The company uses public dollars for recruiting, marketing, and advertising, and parents are persuaded by the sales pitch and the free computer to try homeschooling. Unfortunately, students often lack the motivation to stick with the program, and many drop out and return to their local public school, minus the state tuition grant.


Instead of shutting the school down, after three years of poor results, Commissioner Huffman announced that he would not permit the next entering class of 626 students to enroll. If the TVA were a public school, it would have its doors nailed shut. But Huffman decided to give TVA more time and to ignore its dismal results.


In a pattern that is typical for virtual charter schools, the students at the TVA have low test scores and high attrition. When the students return to their public schools, they have low proficiency. Meanwhile, their home district loses money, and K12’s bottom line grows.


Meanwhile a Washington-based organization that advocates for school choice blasted Huffman. The Center for Educational Reform said:


“The Center for Education Reform strongly condemns the recent directive by the Tennessee Education Commissioner to un-enroll 626 students from the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), denying them their school choice rights.


“It’s an outrage that these 626 legally enrolled students are now being forcefully turned away, just two weeks before the start of the school year,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “This represents an unreasonable attempt by Commissioner Huffman to virtually block the schoolhouse door.”


To CER, school choice is far more important than school quality. No matter how low the test scores or the graduation rate, no matter how high the attrition rate, CER will fight for students’ right to choose low-quality schools. How this is supposed to improve U.S. education is a mystery.


Except for a small number of students with compelling reasons to stay home instead of going to school, virtual charter schools are a waste of public funds.

















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1kcQ97d

Ribbon cutting held for education support company in Alcoa

Ribbon cutting held for education support company in Alcoa

Posted: Jul 16, 2014 3:06 PM PDT

A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday for a new family support center in Blount County, the result of an agreement between education technology company K12 Inc and the Blount Partnership.

The new family support center inside the Tyson Center building in Alcoa has employed about 150 people so far. By October, that number is expected to jump to 300.

Families starting K12 soon are already getting their materials, which according to Tori Smith is a lot.

“I don't even know. Boxes and boxes and boxes,” she said.

By CAMERON TAYLOR[1]

6 News Reporter

ALCOA (WATE) – A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday for a new family support center in Blount County, the result of an agreement between education technology company K12 Inc and the Blount Partnership.



The new family support center inside the Tyson Center building in Alcoa has employed about 150 people so far. By October, that number is expected to jump to 300.



The facility is designed to give parents new to the online school comfort.



“I think that it's exciting that it's in Blount County that we have local people that we know that are actually working here. When you call, you could get a local person answering your questions,” said Susan Smith.



Smith's daughter will be starting the second grade through K12. She says she's excited to try the program.



“That you're not just writing it down. You have typing and everything like that,” said Tori Smith.



The people inside this center will be helping families like the Smiths answer questions, enroll into programs and provide information.



“What's exciting about here is that people in our family support center are the people who are educating those families, families all around the country who are deciding where to put their child for the best education,” said Tim Murray, K12 Inc. president and COO.



The center means many new jobs for the area, which local leaders consider a win for Blount County.



“This corporate service center is catapulting us even further, so it's a great thing,” said Bryan Daniels, CEO and president of Blount Partnership.



Families starting K12 soon are already getting their materials, which according to Tori is a lot.



“I don't even know. Boxes and boxes and boxes.”



More online: Apply for a position[2]

All open positions will be posted on K12's careers website under the location Alcoa.



K12's Tennessee Virtual Academy, which began offering classes in August 2011 is administered by Union County officials. The academy came under fire last year for alleged grade fixing.

Previous story: Tennessee Virtual Academy comes under fire for grade fixing[3]



TNVA responded on its website[4], saying it has done nothing wrong and said that changing grading policies is common in most schools.