A few weeks have passed since this issue was really in the news. At the time I had posted an entry entitled “An Ending In The North Carolina Cyber Charter Saga – At Least For Now,” which had been preceded by Update On Cyber Charter Schooling In North Carolina and Cyber Charter Schooling In North Carolina. Watching the reaction from the neo-liberals in the days that followed was quite interesting to me – and I’ll use the tweets from one particular neo-liberals to illustrate this (i.e., the Senior VP Public Affairs for K12, Inc.).
In the days leading up to the decision that overturned the approval of the K12, Inc. school in North Carolina, he posted:
The article in question (i.e., The Education Establishment fights another losing cause) is published in a publication that bills itself as a publication that “offer fair reporting as a balance to the liberal Elite Media.“ If you click on their “What We Belief” link, you’d find that:
We believe in a free enterprise economic system that does not abuse liberty or exploit human welfare or the environment. We believe less government economic control is better than more government domination of the allocation of economic resources. Thus, we support the free market system unless it produces injustice for the innocent.
We believe in the Rule of Law and that our constitutions (Federal and state) embody the essential principles of our system of governance…
Beyond the stated faith in the free market system (because we have all seen how well that works when allowed to operate without limits), it is this final statement that interested me. You see the crux of this court case was whether a decision to take no action on the application “because of a number of questions about the quality of education the schools offer” and also because “the state education board also wanted to figure out how much funding virtual schools should get” constituted acting within the 30 day limit as prescribed by law.
However, that isn’t what this reporter felt the court case was about. She reported that “As usual it is about money.” – and she was right, as I have argued before the money is what charter schooling is really about (as have others, see Corporate School Reform, The Final Frontier or How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars!).
Anyway, the day the decision came down this was tweeted:
In case you are unfamiliar, the entry that is quoted in this tweet (i.e., Who Governs The Child? – which was written by said Senior VP) was posted to a blog that is managed by one of the biggest neo-liberal proponents of K-12 online learning. Now if you actually take a look at the entry in question, they use one of the common tactics of the neo-liberals/conservatives in K-12 online learning that I have outlined in the past – “Ridicule your opponent, change the focus of the story, or duck the issue altogether.” Remembering that the legal issue is whether a decision to take no action on the application “because of a number of questions about the quality of education the schools offer” and also because “the state education board also wanted to figure out how much funding virtual schools should get” constituted acting within the 30 day limit as prescribed by law. If you read through the blog entry, it presents the issue as so:
“It involves attempts by the State Board of Education (SBE) and the NC School Boards Association to block a proposed online public charter school, North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA) from serving students this Fall. Yet, beyond the details of this one new charter school, this issue has sparked a renewed debate over governance, and whether the principal virtue of “local control” in education is district control or parent choice.”
“Joined by the NC School Boards Association and the left-wing group NC Policy Watch, the SBE is continuing to pursue legal action to block the charter school from opening and serving children.”
“These groups have also engaged in a statewide PR campaign in an effort to discredit multi-district online schools and specifically target K12.”
You’ll note from the first quote that the Senior VP attempts to change the focus or confound the issue by stating that this is about parental choice, not about whether or not the law as written was followed. In the second quote, the image of the evil left-wing is raised in an attempt to ridicule their opponent as being ideologically motivated (like K12, Inc. and its founders don’t have ideological motivations – but let’s not mention those right-wing positions). Finally, the third quote is an attempt to duck the issue altogether, indicating that any public support for the other side is due to this statewide public relations campaign (as if K12, Inc. doesn’t advertize – even in states where no K12, Inc. programs exists and the current legislation wouldn’t allow them to exist anyway).
As a side note that blog entry also included the comment:
“They’ve argued about academics, but ignore evidence showing strong student performance, data indicating academic gains, and strong performance by a number of individual online schools.”
The first bit of “evidence” is the ARVA report that I dissected a few weeks ago and found serious methodological issues. The second bit of “data” is K-12, Inc.’s internal measures that were released shortly after Gary Miron released a report that showed that a significant number of K12, Inc. schools were failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress. The performance by the “individual online schools” come from press releases issued by the K12, Inc. schools themselves, again contrasted with the Miron finding that K12, Inc. was the largest for-profit charter school provider in terms of the number of students served, but that only 24.7% of virtual charter schools (and specifically 33.3% of K12, Inc. run schools) achieved AYP during the 2010-11 school year. I guess those two that the Senior VP profiles were among the one in three that are performing well.
The third tweet came a day or two after the decision was rendered:
This third linked item is written by one of these “independent, nonprofit think tanks” that curiously always seems to take a neo-liberal/conservative (i.e., right-wing) perspective on every issue but to remain an authority in the untrained eyes that most people view think tanks (and also to maintain their 501(c)(3) tax status) they make that claim. In much the same way that the American Legislative Exchange Council makes the claim they are nonpartisan. Anyway, this independent think tank writes:
“But months earlier, SBE Chairman Bill Harrison declared — without a vote of the board and outside the parameters of the charter school law — that the State Board of Education would not consider “fast track” applications for virtual or online charter schools. The N.C. Virtual Academy application was ignored.”
“Left-wing advocacy groups got a “win” the old fashioned way — god-awful jurisprudence.”
“Did Judge Jones consider the implications of granting the chairman of the SBE this kind of unilateral authority? If the chair of the SBE determined that the state had too many charter schools in Durham County, to use a relevant example, he could announce that the SBE would not consider any applications for schools in that county. And that would be the end of the story. What Harrison says, goes. It is Harrison’s way or the highway. Harrison is large and in charge. You get the idea.”
Again, if we look at the issue through the tactics lens. The first quote attempts to change the focus or confound the issue by misrepresenting the “action” that was taken by the State Board of Education. The second quote raises the evil spectre of the “left-wing,” while at the same time implying that achieving your goals through the court was somehow underhanded (and because they disagreed with the decision, bad judge made law). They ignore the fact that it was an administrative law judge that overturned the original State Board of Education decision (I guess in their eyes, that was “god-wonderful jurisprudence”). The final quote again attempts to change the focus or confound the issue by stating that the decision wasn’t simply about the State Board of Education actually upholding the letter of the law, but somehow this decision represented a takeover of the State Board of Education – and education policy in general – by some dictatorial force.
It is funny because as I read through these items, I am reminded of the fuss over the cyber charter school court decision in Georgia that said that the charter school authorizing law the Senate had passed was unconstitutional and people rallied against what they felt were the removal of parental choice and limiting the opportunities for students. The same thing happened a few years ago in Wisconsin, when people blamed the teachers union for taking a K12, Inc. school to court because it was essentially breaking the law that legislators had failed to amend when they first allowed cyber charter schools into that state (and you can see much more about this issue by clicking on the Wisconsin tag – the court case entries currently begin on page 2). I guess it does help when you have a publicly-traded corporation to help confuse the issue for you…