Virtual School Meanderings

May 8, 2014

Will We See You At The National Charter Schools Conference?

So as the day draws to a close, here is one neo-liberal groups asking if they’ll see you at this neo-liberal event…  And people wonder why there is a crisis in American public education?!?  All you have to do is look at the slogan for the event, “The Numbers Add Up” – they certainly do for the profiteers and their buddies that are behind all of this !!!


Each year, our friends at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools host the National Charter Schools Conference, bringing together more than 4,000 charter school professionals and education reform/school choice advocates to discuss the critical issues facing the charter school movement and to get inspired to continue the work to ensure all children have access to a great school.

This year’s conference will feature some terrific policy, advocacy, and communications sessions that everyone in the education reform community should attend:

  • Mayors from major U.S. cities will be on hand to talk about their growing role in education reform.
  • Governors and Members of Congress will tell us what really motivates them to act and how we can best communicate with them on policy issues.
  • Attendees will hear from the New York City organization whose work forced Mayor de Blasio to reverse course after he shut down some of the top performing charter schools in the City. They will tell us what they did, how they did it, and what they would have done differently.
  • Attendees will learn the most effective messaging for school choice.
  • Participants will talk about “Blue State Strategies” for increasing support for charter schools and other school reforms in blue states.

The National Charter Schools Conference is June 30-July 2, 2014 in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Convention Center, located in the heart of the world-famous Vegas strip.

Can’t make it to the Conference and want to show your support for charter schools? Join @ExcelinEd in celebrating National Public Charter Schools Week happening now on Twitter! 


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April 25, 2014

U.S. Education Department Announces First-of-Its Kind Resolution of Virtual Charter School Civil Rights Investigation

This was brought to my attention earlier in the week…


Press Office, (202) 401-1576,


The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights has entered into an agreement with Virtual Community School of Ohio to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with disabilities at the school. This first-of-its-kind resolution promises equal access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities in virtual charter schools.Virtual Community School of Ohio is an Internet-based, public charter school that serves approximately 1,200 students who reside throughout the state of Ohio.”Students with disabilities who attend online public charter schools are entitled to all the protections of the federal civil rights laws that their peers receive at traditional public schools, including the right to receive a free appropriate education. Online schools also must take steps to ensure that the websites and online classrooms they use to promote their services and to educate students are accessible to individuals with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. “Online education environments such as this in which students reside across the state and go to school together in a totally on-line environment, may present unique challenges. Nevertheless, these online schools must comply with the civil rights laws. I commend Virtual Community School of Ohio for agreeing to address these issues as part of its agreement with OCR.”

OCR initiated a compliance review in 2011 to assess whether the school discriminates against students with disabilities by failing to ensure that they receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). OCR also examined whether individuals with disabilities are provided an equal opportunity to access the school’s website and on-line learning environment.

OCR’s investigation identified compliance problems with the evaluation and placement procedures used by the school to identify students with disabilities under Section 504 and to determine their individual education needs and the services necessary to provide them an appropriate education.

OCR also found that the school did not provide procedural safeguards for students with disabilities relating to identification, evaluation and placement under Section 504; did not publish contact information for the employee designated to coordinate its efforts to comply with Section 504 and Title II; and did not adopt and publish disability grievance procedures, as required under Section 504 and Title II.

The office also determined that the school utilized a website and an on-line learning environment that are not accessible to individuals with disabilities, particularly those who are blind, have low vision, or have other disabilities, such as learning disabilities that substantially limit their ability to access printed materials.

Under the agreement, the school committed to take specific actions to ensure that it is providing a FAPE to students with disabilities, as well as an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in the school’s web-based education program. The agreement provides that the school will:

  • Develop Section 504 policies and procedures so that students with disabilities are appropriately identified, evaluated, , and provided services to ensure they receive a FAPE;
  • Notify parents, guardians, and students of the revised Section 504 policies and procedures;
  • Evaluate or reevaluate students with disabilities enrolled in the last two years to determine whether they need compensatory special education and/or related aids or services and, based on this evaluation, promptly provide compensatory services;
  • Publish contact information for the school’s Section 504/Title II coordinator and ensure that the coordinator is appropriately trained;
  • Develop and publish grievance procedures that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of disability discrimination complaints;
  • Provide training to staff involved in the evaluation and placement of students with disabilities;
  • Develop policies and procedures to ensure that the school’s online technologies are accessible, including the adoption of technical standards to ensure accessibility;
  • Revise its website and on-line learning environment so that they are accessible to individuals with disabilities, including students with visual, hearing, or print disabilities and those who otherwise require use of assistive technology to access the school’s program;
  • Monitor the accessibility of the school’s online technologies; and
  • Provide annual training for staff responsible for online technologies about the school’s
    accessibility policies and procedures and their roles and responsibilities in ensuring online content is accessible.

OCR will closely monitor the school’s implementation of the agreement.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here:

A copy of the agreement can be found here:

The office’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. Additional information about OCR is available at


An interesting follow-up press release that also appears to have been buried…

March 20, 2014

For Profit Charter Schools Are NOT Public Schools

Again no Yahoo alert on the K12, Inc. close.  I’m going to have to look into this over the weekend.  Anyway, last week I posted this on my Facebook page.

I said it many times in the past… For all their claims about being public schools, charter schools are not public schools. In fact, this was the position they took in a recent court case and the judge agreed with them.

Judge rules that state Controller Thomas DiNapoli cannot audit charter schools

New York charter schools won a big victory Thursday when a judge ruled the state’s top fiscal officer can’t follow the money and look at their books.

Charter school crusader Eva Moskowitz filed suit to bar state Controller Thomas DiNapoli from auditing her 22 schools, all of which are publicly funded but also receive private donations. On Thursday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin ruled DiNapoli did not have the authority to audit any New York charter because the schools are not technically “units of the state.”


See for post on my Facebook page.

For those of us who follow such things, this decision was not new. We’ve seen the same thing in the K-12 online learning world some time ago.

When Private Firms Run Schools, Financial Secrecy Is Allowed

On a recently approved Texas charter school application, blacked-out paragraphs appear on almost 100 of its 393 pages.

Redactions on the publicly available online version of the application often extend for pages at a time. They include sections on the school’s plan to support students’ academic success, its extracurricular activities and the “extent to which any private entity, including any management company” will be involved in the school’s operation. The “shaded material,” according to footnotes, is confidential proprietary or financial information.

The school, part of an Arizona charter school network, opened a campus in San Antonio this year. It was technically formed under a nonprofit, but its management is handled by a private company, the Basis Educational Group, owned by the school’s founders. A spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said redactions appeared on the application because the information was copyrighted.

To continue reading, click here.

February 21, 2014

eSN Today: Are States Making The Right Decisions With Charter Schools?

This scrolled through my inbox on Tuesday.  You know, I continue to find it interesting that I see these self-serving reports – and even more disturbing the media that cover them in such an unquestioning way.

In this instance, we have a report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools…  And we all know what they are going to be arguing for – i.e., “no caps on the growth of public charter schools, a variety of public charter schools allowed, multiple authorizers available, accountability required, adequate funding, transparent decision-making processes, performance-based contracts required”.  Essentially a greater expansion of the charter school movement.

Instead of questioning the value or wisdom of these recommendations, the reporter – and by extension the media outlet – the uses a quote from another charter advocate:

Yet, little data exists on whether or not charter schools do, in fact, raise student achievement.

“Truth be told, ethical arguments between supposedly ‘pro-‘ and ‘anti-‘ groups fall prey to the same pitfall as the empirical arguments: they obscure the essential heterogeneity of charter schools,” writes Conor P. Williams, senior researcher in New America’s Early Education Initiative. “Charters are diverse to such an extent that they almost cease to be a definable subset.”

Williams argues that instead of using national data to try and define whether or not charter schools are better or worse than traditional public schools, performance should be examined by state.

The reality is that there few, if any, methodologically reliable and valid studies that have shown charter schools to be more effective than traditional public schools.  That being the case, even when charter schools are shown to be as effective it means that they same results could have been achieved in a traditional public school and no one would have profited from taxpayer’s money that was allocated for public education.  But that is the American way I guess – competitive is the answer to every social problem and few seem to have problems with profiting from taxpayers!

Meris Stansbury In today’s news, a new report reveals that states across the country are dramatically changing their charter school laws, but will these laws improve charter school performance? Also, innovative ways to involve girls in coding; and math products get students engaged with robots and gaming.Do you think new state laws will improve charter school performance? What are some fun ways to get students involved with coding? Leave your comments with the stories, email me at, or find me @eSN_Meris on Twitter.

Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor

Top News of the Day

Are states making the right decisions with charter schools?

Whether or not you’re for or against charter schools, the charter movement is spreading like a wildfire in many states across the country. Now, one report details which states are updating policy measures that could [ Read More ]

January 7, 2014

Your Tax Dollars At Work: Ohio Edition

Not to pick on just K12, Inc., let’s post an Ohio edition of Your Tax Dollars at Work.  Shortly before the holidays, Diane Ravitch alerted me to a Charter Founder in Ohio Makes Large Political Contributions, Gets Rich.  The original source for this issue came across Diane’s desk from a Plunderbund blog entry entitled ECOT Founder Living VERY Well Off Ohio’s School Funding Dollars.

For those who are unfamiliar, ECOT or the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is the largest cyber charter school in Ohio.  According to Greg at the Plunderbund blog, ECOT was about to receive

a “bonus” check of $2.9 million that would be quickly rerouted into ECOT owner William Lager’s other private businesses.  This is not the first raise that ECOT has received this year.  Through the Kasich budget passed this summer, ECOT received the largest increase in state funding for any charter school in Ohio at $4.8 million.  This far surpassed the second largest increase of $1.35 million given to Ohio Virtual Academy.

Just to remind folks, this is an additional $2.9 million of taxpayers’ money!  And what are the taxpayers of Ohio getting for this $2.9 million bonus?  Well, according to the Ohio School Report Cards entry for ECOT, it isn’t good!!!  One “D”, seven “F”s, and one area that received an NR (which I assume is no response).  This performance is worth a $2.9 million bonus of taxpayers’ money?

So how is this possible, I think this chart answers many of our questions:


While ECOT CEO (William Lager) has many business interests beyond ECOT (although the Plunderbund blog entry does describe several other publicly-funded Lager initiatives), you also have to ask yourself how much of this $1,343,242.46 is taxpayers’ money?

What’s the old saying, “you have to spend money to make money”?  And when it is the taxpayers’ money, whynot spent as much as you need to get the job done?

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