Believe it or not, this is actually the 6000th entry that has been posted to this blog. And I think it a bit appropriate that it is the entry for this year’s Blog Action Day (although it is totally unintentional, as I thought number 6000 would come later in the week). The theme for this year’s Blog Action Day is the “Power of We.” In choosing this theme, the Blog Action Day folks stated it was for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, the popularity of the subjects Community, Equality, Transparency/Anti-Corruption and Freedom, in the theme poll we ran via Facebook and Twitter, over the last few weeks.
Secondly, we felt that Blog Action Day needed to reflect the ever growing movements of people working together for positive social change.
Whether using digital tools like blogs, social networks and mobiles, or meeting face to face in local community halls, neighbours house, and public streets. Greater numbers of people have been coming together to make change, either for their own communities or the world at large.
Basically, it is the blogging version of giving a voice to the 99% because it is the 1% that have cornered all of the traditional media markets. Also, it is interesting for me, as this is the fifth Blog Action Day I have participated in, and really it is the first time that the topic has been something that can naturally be related to education (as opposed to water or climate change for example).
I also find it interesting because it comes at an important time in the field. Within K-12 online learning there is a movement to corporatize public education. Essentially, there are a group of for profit companies and “not-for-profit, non-partisan” organizations that have been working to influence the legislation, policies and regulations surrounding K-12 online learning to continue to open up the market to allow for more and more corporate involvement. Opening up the markets involves several standard features. The first is to remove any meaningful barriers on increasing the number of for-profit programs that can operate in a given state and how many students each program can enroll. This maximizes the number of companies and potential widgets for each company. The second is to ensure full and unrestricted access to the funding associated with each full-time equivalent enrollment. This maximizes the profit that can be made with each widget. The third is to remove any meaningful and, in particularly, external, oversight. This maximizes the flexibility the companies have to be creative in how they meet any state obligations with the least affect to their bottom line.
The infographic that I posted some time ago in Following The Money And Influence For Digital Education provides one illustration of how this is playing out in the State of Maine. As the infographic implies, much of this influence occurs behind the scenes – like most of the work done by those organizations. One of the most “behind the scenes” organizations within this group is the American Legislative Education Council (ALEC) – an organization that SourceWatch describes as “a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations.” If you examine the Education Task Force – or at least what we know about it, as ALEC isn’t exactly open about their activities – you’ll see all of the big players in K-12 online learning involved:
- task force is co-chaired by Connections Academy (a division of Pearson)
- members include:
- Connections Academy
- Innosight Institute (in its own words, “a not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank”)
- International Association for K-12 Online Learning (another non-profit, non-partisan organization that SourceWatch accurately describes as “the online schools trade association”)
- K12, Inc.
- Insight Schools, Inc. (now a division of K12)
It is interesting to examine some of the model bills that have come out of this group (see Bills Affecting American Right to Public Education from ALEC Exposed). One of the more interesting ones from our perspective is the Virtual Public Schools Act Exposed. You’ll see it is designed to do all of the items I described above when it comes to opening up markets (e.g., ensure equal, unrestricted funding for unlimited numbers of students with little oversight to maximize profits).
What does all of this have to do with this year’s Blog Action Day you might ask. Well, this represents your 1% in the field of K-12 online learning. For the past four or five years, I have tried to use this space and my knowledge of the research into K-12 online learning to articulate the position of the 99%. While I won’t go into each and every one of those positions in this entry – beyond what I have already outlined – I will simply state that while I will re-post all items that I receive related to K-12 online learning so that Virtual School Meanderings can continue to be a one-stop-shop for folks interested in the field. I will also continue to try to outline the progressive position on K-12 online learning, in response to the dominant narrative provided by the neo-liberal comprised educational reform group described above.