California Virtual Academies: Bill targeting for-profit operator K12 Inc. clears first committee vote

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
06/30/2016 05:42:09 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday on a party-line 6-2 vote after a divisive debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.

File photo:Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.
(Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group archives)

The stories revealed that the company reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The two-part series also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

Lawmakers’ efforts a few years ago to crack down on for-profit colleges and universities sent several of the chains into bankruptcy, and if AB 1084 is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, it would effectively put companies like K12 out of business in the Golden State, too.

Bonilla, D-Concord, says that’s fine with her.

“What my bill says is ‘Let’s just agree they don’t belong here in California,’ ” because allowing online charter schools to contract with for-profit companies creates “a perverse incentive for schools to prioritize profits over students,” said Bonilla, who referenced the newspaper’s findings in her remarks to the committee.

But parents couldn’t disagree more about whether companies like K12 should be allowed to operate charter schools in California, and a lobbyist for K12 and two other firms insisted they’re being singled out unfairly.

Two mothers who support the legislation testified that the law is needed to force schools controlled by for-profit companies to re-evaluate their priorities and begin emphasizing student achievement above all else, including profit margins and shareholder whims.

“Help us transform California Virtual Academies from an enrollment factory that piles up the money into a place that supports teachers, parents and students,” said Stacey Preach, who lives in the Sacramento area. She worked for K12’s network of online schools and briefly enrolled her child in one of them.

Opponents of the measure, including Virginia Shemansky, who lives in Leona Valley, said signing the bill into law would force some schools to close, squash parental choice and limit the ability of schools that remain open to serve troubled students who need services only specialized for-profits can provide.

“Sacramento’s special interest groups are playing politics with our students,” said Shemansky, a member of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, which advocates for access to online schools managed by K12 and its leading competitor, Connections Academy. “Parents are demanding that the assault on parent choice stop.”

Several parents and teachers who watched the hearing stood up to endorse the bill, but no parents seated in the audience spoke against it.

Before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill will have to be approved by the full Senate, the Assembly Education Committee and the full Assembly.

The committee’s vote comes a few days after state Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson commissioned state Controller Betty Yee to audit the K12-managed California Virtual Academies and several weeks after a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for the state auditor to do a separate probe of for-profit charter schools.

The company is also being investigated by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who launched an investigation of online charter schools last fall.

A spokesman for K12 couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the vote.

Branche Jones, a lobbyist for K12, testified at the hearing that the intense scrutiny the company is facing is unfair because statements made about its practices and track record by Bonilla and this newspaper are incorrect. The company, however, has never disputed the factual accuracy of the newspaper’s investigative series.

“There are low-performing schools across the whole state,” Jones said, adding that it’s not fair “to focus on one industry.”

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he voted against the bill because he doesn’t believe a “one-size-fits-all approach” is the right way to address a problem that may not apply to all online charters contracting with for-profit companies. Huff said he had visited a successful online charter school dedicated to helping dropouts earn enough credits to graduate and didn’t want to see it adversely affected by the bill.

Representatives of the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association — two powerful interest groups that oppose one another most of the time — said they agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state. But Rand Martin, a lobbyist for the charter school group, testified that the association opposes the bill unless Bonilla adopts a more “surgical approach” to the problem and agrees to a series of amendments it has proposed.

Instead of broadly banning online charter schools from hiring for-profit companies for instructional services, the association wants to create a “firewall” between charter schools and for-profit vendors by prohibiting the companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barring them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limiting the number of teachers the firm could employ directly.

Still, Martin said, the organization supports the spirit of the legislation.

“We actually agree with the objective of the author,” Martin said. “We should not have a for-profit operating a charter school.”

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

California ‘virtual’ academies: Bill targets for-profit operator K12 Inc.

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
06/10/2016 05:42:47 PM PDT |Updated:   about 22 hours ago

Related Stories

SACRAMENTO — Online charter schools would be prohibited from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services under a new bill that the author says is a direct response to this newspaper’s investigation of the company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies.

That company is K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia firm that allows students who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto its software to be counted as “present,” as it reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students. Students who live almost anywhere south of Humboldt County may sign up for one of the company’s schools.

File photo:Former California Virtual Academies student Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, plays a video game on her laptop in her San Francisco home on Feb. 18, 2016. (Dai Sugano/Staff archives)

Assembly Bill 1084, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would prevent charter schools that do more than 80 percent of their teaching online from being operated by for-profit companies or hiring them to facilitate instruction. If passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislation would effectively put companies like K12 out of business in the Golden State.

“Our taxpayer dollars should be spent in the classroom to help our students, not used to enrich a company’s shareholders or drive up its profits,” Bonilla said in an interview.

But K12 spokesman Mike Kraft railed against the proposal, calling it “another cynical effort to take away the rights of parents to choose the way their kids are educated.”

“This bill is nothing more than a PR effort designed to appease big money special interests that hide in the shadows, harming California families,” Kraft wrote in an email, alluding to the support teachers unions have given to similar legislation in the past.

“Today, more than 14,000 California children attend virtual public charter schools, many in the Assemblymember’s own district,” Kraft added. “How many of their families has she spoken with before deciding to try to take away their choice?”

Before the newspaper’s two-part investigative series was published in April, Bonilla said, she didn’t know how wide the achievement gap was between students enrolled in K12’s California Virtual Academies and those who attend other public schools. But the more she learned about the company’s track record, the more she felt motivated to act.

The series highlighted research that shows online schools’ hands-off learning model isn’t appropriate for most children and found that accountability for student performance is sorely lacking. In fact, the districts tasked with overseeing K12’s California schools have a strong financial incentive to turn a blind eye to problems because they receive a cut of California Virtual Academies’ revenue to oversee them.

The stories also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

Earlier this month, another bipartisan group of lawmakers responded to the newspaper’s findings by calling for a wide-ranging state audit of for-profit charter schools.

“We’re already more than half way through the legislative session, so I knew we had to act quickly,” Bonilla said. “This bill is focused, targeted and designed to get through the legislative process this year.”

Because deadlines for introducing new legislation have already passed, Bonilla had to “gut and amend” another bill so that her new measure could move forward as soon as possible.

For the measure to advance, it must be approved by the Senate Education Committee before lawmakers break for the summer in early July. After they return in August, the bill would need to clear a floor vote in the Senate, a policy committee in the Assembly and an Assembly floor vote within a matter of weeks.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, authored similar legislation last year, but Brown rejected Assembly Bill 787, writing in his veto message: “I don’t believe the case has been made to eliminate for-profit charter schools in California.”

The governor went on to state that “the somewhat ambiguous terms used in this bill could be interpreted to restrict the ability of nonprofit charter schools to continue using for-profit vendors” such as textbook publishers or transportation providers.

Bonilla said she doesn’t know if Brown will support AB1084 — he typically doesn’t reveal his views on pending legislation before squashing it or signing it into law. But Bonilla said she attempted to address the governor’s concern about ambiguity by specifying in her bill that online charter schools can’t hire for-profit companies for instructional services. So the schools could still contract with publishers and private transportation companies.

“Profit doesn’t belong in public education, and taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent on for-profit instruction,” said Bonilla, who will be termed out in December. “This has been going on here for years, and it has to stop.”

To reach the governor’s desk by the end of August, AB1084 will likely need support from powerful interest groups such as the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association. The CTA sponsored Hernandez’s bill, and while spokeswoman Claudia Briggs said the union would need more time to review Bonilla’s bill before taking a formal position, she said it sounded like “a bill we could get behind.”

Emily Bertelli, a California Charter Schools Association spokeswoman, has previously said the organization would support legislation that bans for-profit companies such as K12 from operating charter schools.

Asked to comment on AB1084, Colin Miller, the association’s acting senior vice president for government affairs, said the group is still evaluating the impact of the proposal’s language.

“The association has been committed to operational transparency, authorizer accountability and quality academic performance for all charter schools,” Miller said. “But we also want to ensure that optimal flexibility is maintained. We hope to work with the author to find the right solution.”

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

K12 Inc. statement about investigation of California schools

Bay Area News Group

Posted:
 
04/18/2016 08:34:44 PM PDT Updated:   about a month ago

K12 Inc. released the following statement Monday in response to a Bay Area News Group investigation published Sunday and Monday into the Virginia company’s network of online charter schools in California.

HERNDON, Va., — This week, The San Jose Mercury News published two articles about K12 Inc. and the California Virtual Academies (CAVA) — eleven independent public charter schools — that are inaccurate, incompletely researched, and missing the balanced input of many parents whose children have attended and been served by these schools.

Most concerning, these stories cite several politically-driven claims about the CAVA schools that are substantially similar, and in some cases identical, to allegations made by the California Teachers Association (CTA) in their multi-year campaign to unionize the CAVA schools. These issues have been addressed and in many instances roundly refuted. The paper fails to disclose that the few teachers quoted in the article represent a small subset of CAVA teachers organizing on behalf of CTA. The union opposes charter schools, and has also lobbied for legislation aimed at shutting down CAVA schools and other similar public schools of choice.

Parents of children with a variety of educational needs choose CAVA schools: students with special needs who are not receiving the services they require at their local schools; children who struggle in traditional schools; students who are bullied; academically gifted children; and many more. We believe parents know their children best, and we respect the choices they make.

The Mercury News articles are inconsistent with the positive experiences of thousands of California parents who thoughtfully choose CAVA schools for their children. They ignore the experience of the majority of CAVA teachers and educators who are passionate about their work, committed to these schools, and who reject the self-serving goals of the CTA. And they fail to represent fairly the volunteers–many of whom are themselves parents of CAVA students–who serve on the independent, nonprofit CAVA schools’ boards. The Mercury News should have considered the input of a wider sample of parents and teachers.

K-12 public schools are highly regulated entities, and as a services provider to public schools across the U.S. we take compliance very seriously. Each CAVA school is governed by a separate and independent charter school board. Each school follows state and federal regulations, and operates under California’s Independent Study program designed for non-classroom-based educational programs. These schools are open, transparent, and accountable. They operate under multiple layers of oversight at the state and local levels, undergo annual independent financial and programmatic audits, and have strong records of compliance.

K12’s mission is to serve our school partners and to assist them in making student achievement the first goal. Where there are deficiencies, we make improvements. If mistakes are made, we correct them. We work constantly to enhance our products and academic services–and, in turn, to facilitate student success. K12 is an organization of educators, teachers, and professionals who are dedicated to providing quality services to the schools and students we are privileged to serve. Unfortunately, these articles do not fairly tell that side of the story.

K12 Inc. statement about investigation of California schools

Bay Area News Group

Posted:
 
04/18/2016 08:34:44 PM PDT Updated:   about a month ago

K12 Inc. released the following statement Monday in response to a Bay Area News Group investigation published Sunday and Monday into the Virginia company’s network of online charter schools in California.

HERNDON, Va., — This week, The San Jose Mercury News published two articles about K12 Inc. and the California Virtual Academies (CAVA) — eleven independent public charter schools — that are inaccurate, incompletely researched, and missing the balanced input of many parents whose children have attended and been served by these schools.

Most concerning, these stories cite several politically-driven claims about the CAVA schools that are substantially similar, and in some cases identical, to allegations made by the California Teachers Association (CTA) in their multi-year campaign to unionize the CAVA schools. These issues have been addressed and in many instances roundly refuted. The paper fails to disclose that the few teachers quoted in the article represent a small subset of CAVA teachers organizing on behalf of CTA. The union opposes charter schools, and has also lobbied for legislation aimed at shutting down CAVA schools and other similar public schools of choice.

Parents of children with a variety of educational needs choose CAVA schools: students with special needs who are not receiving the services they require at their local schools; children who struggle in traditional schools; students who are bullied; academically gifted children; and many more. We believe parents know their children best, and we respect the choices they make.

The Mercury News articles are inconsistent with the positive experiences of thousands of California parents who thoughtfully choose CAVA schools for their children. They ignore the experience of the majority of CAVA teachers and educators who are passionate about their work, committed to these schools, and who reject the self-serving goals of the CTA. And they fail to represent fairly the volunteers–many of whom are themselves parents of CAVA students–who serve on the independent, nonprofit CAVA schools’ boards. The Mercury News should have considered the input of a wider sample of parents and teachers.

K-12 public schools are highly regulated entities, and as a services provider to public schools across the U.S. we take compliance very seriously. Each CAVA school is governed by a separate and independent charter school board. Each school follows state and federal regulations, and operates under California’s Independent Study program designed for non-classroom-based educational programs. These schools are open, transparent, and accountable. They operate under multiple layers of oversight at the state and local levels, undergo annual independent financial and programmatic audits, and have strong records of compliance.

K12’s mission is to serve our school partners and to assist them in making student achievement the first goal. Where there are deficiencies, we make improvements. If mistakes are made, we correct them. We work constantly to enhance our products and academic services–and, in turn, to facilitate student success. K12 is an organization of educators, teachers, and professionals who are dedicated to providing quality services to the schools and students we are privileged to serve. Unfortunately, these articles do not fairly tell that side of the story.

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

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

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

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

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

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

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

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

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

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

two men shaking hands

White Hat Management may sell off the management of 12 schools in Ohio.

Who will they sell to? Pansophic Learning, a company started by Ron Packard, founder and former CEO of K12, Inc. Pansophic is a Virginia-based, for-profit operator.

The contracts give the management company as much as 95 percent of state funding for the 12 schools, which are on pace to receive $26.4 million this year to educate 3,286 students.

According to BloombergBusiness, Pansophic also may purchase the management of New York-based Mosaica Education, Inc. These two deals would make Pansophic Learning the “largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

Read more here and here from Doug Livingston.

The post White Hat may cash in on 12 schools appeared first on Cashing in on Kids.