Virtual School Meanderings

August 16, 2013

Virtual Cronies – New Jersey Edition

This came across my radar screen in the past few days, the original is available at Virtual Cronies.

Virtual Cronies

Darcie Cimarusti, in a stellar bit of reporting, breaks down the cronyism behind the approval of two “blended learning” charter schools that rely heavily on online learning for their education model.  Despite the reports from Pennsylvania, Ohio and the rest of the nation about corruption, exorbitant prices, and poor results from cyber charters, New Jersey seems determined to plow ahead.

Why is that? Why don’t we put the brakes on these questionable schools, as NJ Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan suggests? Why not take the time to study the evidence before ramming these schools through at a cost of millions to taxpayers and local school districts?

Here’s a clue:

The three of the four virtual charters currently up for approval have two things in common: they are going to be managed by K12 Inc., and they will be based in Newark (the fourth, based in Monmouth County, also is reportedly aligned with K12; it appears to be replicating services already provided by an agency in Monmouth for a fraction of the proposed costs).

According to both the New York Times and the Nation, K12 Inc. works very hard to cultivate political connections across the country, spending nearly half-a-million dollars on direct contributions in state-level races.

What the articles fail to document, however, are the contributions made by members of K12’s board of directors. K12’s chairman until very recently was Andrew Tisch, of the famous New York Tisch family. Reports are that Tisch stepped down as chairman just a few weeks ago, but still appears to still serve on the board. He also appears to have been very well-compensated for his position, receiving both stock and options grants from the company.

Why does this matter?

Because Andrew Tisch and his family are Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s biggest financial supporters. According to NJ elections records, Tisch and his wife, Ann, gave just a hair less than the maximum allowable contribution to Booker’s last mayoral campaign. Andrews’s cousins, Laurie Sussman Tisch and Jonathan Tisch, both gave the maximum amount. Other members of the family are also heavy hitters in the Booker campaign.

Booker’s relentless push to expand charters in Newark has been very well-documented, both here and elsewhere. He and ACTING Education Commissioner Cerf have used money from both Eli Broad and Mark Zuckerberg to privatize Newark’s schools, enriching their friends and associates in the process. This has all been over the objections of local citizens, who have no say in the management of their schools, despite real concerns about growing segregation.

Well, it appears that Booker’s charter cheerleading has real benefits for the people who finance his campaigns. Thanks, in part, to Booker’s bully pulpit, Newark is poised to bring in substantial and growing revenues for K12 Inc.

And it doesn’t hurt Booker’s supporters that the President of the state’s Board of Education, Arcelio Aponte, works for Booker in his day job as the Director of Operations and Management in the city’s Economic Development department.

The cronyism surrounding the rapid expansion of charters – especially virtual charters – is frightening enough. Add to it the profit motive, the lack of local control, and the questionable value of these schools, and we’re looking at a virtual disaster in the making.

ADDING: More on Tisch and Booker:

That would be welcome news for Mr. Booker’s wealthy supporters, who also happen to be some of the richest investors in New York. Andrew Tisch, chairman of the executive committee of the Loews Corporation, held a fund-raiser for Mr. Booker at the Regency last year. Gayle King, best friend to the queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey, hosted an evening for him at the West Village workshop of Diane von Furstenberg. Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley and Barbra Streisand have sung his praises. [emphasis mine]

Oh, my.

ALSO ADDING: Folks, I really have no control over the ads. I was just as stunned as anyone when K12 ads started appearing here. I honestly do not know if I can turn them off or how.

ADDING EVEN MORE: Darcie has another post up about cyber charters:

So, if you can’t make a statewide virtual charter work in Teaneck because the parents,residentssuperintendentschool boardpoliticians, and press will have a field day with the ridiculousness of a $4.7 million bottom line, where can you put one?

I know, NEWARK!

This, and this alone, explains how four cyber charters may be opening in Newark this Fall.  There is no local control and no local voice.  It has been snuffed out.

Yep. And the mayor is in debt to the guy who’s making money from this whole deal.

Read Darcie’s entire post keeping in mind Booker’s connections to K12. It’s outrageous, but typical.

- See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.ca/2012/07/virtual-cronies.html#sthash.ppAC3GOO.dpuf

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