Yesterday, I saw this scroll through my Facebook stream.
Click on the image or visit http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/02/19/1533942/albertsons-heir-cashes-in-on-online.html
I have to say that the article and Ross‘ comment set off a bit of a discussion on his Facebook page – one that I couldn’t just watch. Those of you who follow this blog know what I think about the cyber charter school movement and the politics behind it (and if you’re new to the blog you can read here, here, here and here to get a quick refresher – and that’s just from the last seven months).
Anyway, this article that Ross raised has some interesting lines. For example:
“Since 2007, Joseph B. Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which sells online courses and other services to public schools.
Meanwhile, his family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped K12 tap Idaho taxpayer dollars and now is supporting state schools chief Tom Luna’s plan to require every high school student in the state to take online classes.
For nearly a decade, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has chipped in millions toward Idaho’s online public education system. One of those online schools, the Idaho Virtual Academy, has, in turn, directed tens of millions of public dollars into K12’s company coffers, for services ranging from curriculum to administration.”
“For instance, Alscott and the Albertson Foundation share the same Boise address. The phone number is the same.
Bennett, K12’s ebullient founder who is now a Republican regular on national political talk shows, was an Albertson Foundation board member in 2002 and 2003.
And Thomas Wilforth, Scott’s business partner at Alscott as well as the foundation’s chief executive officer, was on K12’s board of directors until just December.
Scott and Wilforth declined multiple requests for an interview through Chris Latter, an Albertson Foundation spokeswoman.
Back in 2002, Securities and Exchange Commission documents indicate K12 told federal regulators that a single Idaho-based investor had purchased a $5 million stake in the company. At the time, K12 was a privately held company and didn’t disclose the name of the investor.
Five years later, however, when K12 sold shares to the public, it told the SEC that Alscott was the largest of “other selling stockholders,” with a 3.8 percent stake, or nearly 826,000 shares, valued at about $14 million.
All the while, Scott’s family’s education foundation was active promoting Idaho’s fledgling online education programs — something Luna has made a centerpiece of his reforms.”
“The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, with some $544 million in assets, gave the Idaho Virtual Academy a $1 million grant to help it get off the ground in 2002.
The academy, a web-based public charter school that gets state taxpayer funding for its operations, is run by K12.
Scott’s foundation helped others, too: From 2004 to 2007, it gave the Boise School District more than $1.6 million — so it could work with K12, too.”
Interesting set of entanglements, don’t you agree? This is exactly the reasons why many people question the practices of these cyber charter schools (as I did only six days ago in an entry entitled, “Corporate K-12 Online Learning Entities“). I ended that entry with the following:
However, for some – myself included – I’m not comfortable with a state or school district simply handing over 93% to 97% of the per pupil funding for each student to these for profit cyber charter companies with only this amount of information available. If we had a better understanding of the funding model, how it works, and what kinds of profits these companies are making on the per pupil funding; some people – myself included – may be a bit more comfortable with this form of K-12 online learning and the funding models that are used.
It is this understanding or transparency that may prevent the fear that comes when I see things like this scroll through my Twitter stream:
In instances like this, my concern is for the students – both in terms of whether they are receiving an equitable education to their brick-and-mortar counterparts or, as my colleague Chuck would think about, how much better an education could these students have receive had ALL of that money gone directly to their schooling?
In addition to more transparency when it comes to what happens with the money, some assurances that this isn’t simply a case of political and corporate nepotism would also be nice!
Note that later the newspaper ran an online correction in relation to the article’s headline.