Virtual School Meanderings

September 9, 2020

Cyber Charter School Scandal In Oklahoma

If everything cyber charter schools were doing was above board, we wouldn’t see stories like this one from the Tulsa World.

Mathew Hamrick Epic
In late July, Mathew Hamrick even signed an affidavit on behalf of Epic’s for-profit operator, which is shielding Epic’s Learning Fund spending records — and in direct opposition to the official position of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

A member of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board was censured and stripped of his seat on a newly formed audit committee after going rogue on the board’s official position in a legal battle over Epic Charter Schools’ spending records.

Board member Mathew Hamrick was the target of the formal statement of disapproval by three of his fellow board members of the small state agency that sponsors six online public schools open to any student statewide, including Epic One-on-One.

Hamrick was accused of intentionally avoiding public votes by the board in 2019 and 2020 on matters seeking to unmask Epic’s use of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to date budgeted for student learning that the largest online school operator is keeping private.

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July 3, 2020

Trump To Seek Private, Religious School Scholarships In Next Recovery Bill

This item is an important issue to stay aware of.


Welcome to Cashing in on Kids, a newsletter for people concerned about the privatization of America’s public schools—produced by In the Public Interest.

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Trump to seek private, religious school scholarships in next recovery bill. Word is, the Trump administration plans to demand that Congress devote part of the state and local education funding in the next COVID-19 relief package to a new grant program for private and religious schools. Grants would be provided to states to distribute to nonprofits that disburse scholarships to qualified students who want to attend non-public schools.

Parroting the language of “school choice,” Trump administration counselor Kellyanne Conway said, “We’re trying to give these kids just another opportunity and provide their parents with another option.”

Is the timing just a coincidence? Today marks the anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which ended racial segregation in schools among other groundbreaking legal changes. Trump has continually connected school privatization with civil rights. He recently called school choice the “the civil rights of all time in this country.”

Meanwhile, public education systems are struggling nationwide, as the pandemic batters state and local government revenues. Mississippi just passed a 2021 budget that cuts more than $70 million for public education. New York City cut arts education in schools by 70 percentMcClatchy DC

The Supreme Court just eroded the separation between church and state. “On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that was once unthinkable. It required the state of Montana to set aside its own constitution’s ban on direct or indirect funding of religious private schools,” writes the National Education Policy Center’s Kevin Welner. The Washington Post

Enrollment flattens, yet costs rise. A new report has revealed that even though enrollment in Indiana’s private school voucher program remains flat, the overall cost is increasing. Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program cost $172.7 million in scholarships to 36,707 students for the 2019-20 school year, that’s several hundred additional students and $11.3 million more than last school year. Indiana Public Media

Pennsylvania could save $100 million with this one small change. A new report from Education Voters of Pennsylvania exposes how charter schools in the Keystone State are using students with special needs to game the system. “The Pennsylvania legislature could fix the problem pretty simply; just apply the same funding system to both public and charter schools,” writes education writer Peter Greene. “The report shows that this would save taxpayers roughly $100 million.” Forbes

DeSantis expands Florida’s school voucher program. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has expanded the state’s multi-million-dollar school voucher and scholarship programs, which quadruples the rate at which vouchers will grow annually. Tampa Bay Times



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June 24, 2020

How Did Cops End Up In U.S. Schools? | More Charter Schools Take Small Business Relief | And More

Note the item at the bottom of this newsletter that may be of particular interest to readers.


Welcome to Cashing in on Kids, a newsletter for people who think public education should be truly, absolutely, authentically public—produced by In the Public Interest.

Not a subscriber? Sign up. And make sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.



How did cops end up in U.S. schools? On her podcast Have You Heard, journalist Jennifer Berkshire digs into three cities—Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago—and goes back 60 years to another era wracked by mass social protest: the 1960’s. She talks with students in Boston and historians Matt KautzJudith Kafka, and Louis MercerHave You Heard

More charter schools take small business relief. Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, California, has been awarded $2 million in forgivable loans through a federal relief program meant to help struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mountain View Voice

Palisades Charter High School, in swanky Pacific Palisades, California, also took money from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “Since the government funds its operations, Palisades Charter High School’s revenue has not been affected by Covid-19. The school is also supposed to operate as a non-profit, not a business. Still, the school’s Chief Business Officer, Greg Wood, applied for a $4.606 million dollar loan from the PPP. He did so without receiving prior approval from the school’s governing board.” Patch

Charter regulations to be relaxed in Idaho. The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has put three of its schools on notice regarding their finances. But revisions are in store for the commission’s accountability model. “The revisions would ease up and streamline performance expectations for more than 60 charters under the commission’s purview.” Idaho Ed News

What resources are needed for a “just” recovery in public education? Parents, teachers, and activists came together to discuss the future of public education in Massachusetts. Speakers included Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Schools Lisa Guisbond, Medford City Councilor Zac Bears, teacher Suzie McGlone, and student Evelyn Reyes. Watch the webinar

How K12 Inc. expects to profit off of the pandemic’s school closures. The Hechinger Report’s “Future of Learning” looks at K12 Inc.’s outlook as coronavirus rolls on. “Problems such as low graduation ratesdismal student achievement and high student turnover at many K12 schools are the result of a business model that prioritizes keeping down the costs of educating students, said Neil Campbell, director of innovation for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress.” The Hechinger Report



In the Public Interest
1305 Franklin St., Suite 501
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

May 29, 2020

Review Finds EdTech Claims Can Be Misleading – You Don’t Say?

So this item came through my inbox in the past 7-10 days and I’ve been mulling over what to say about it.

Review finds edtech claims can be misleading
Education-technology companies often make bold promises about their products’ effectiveness, particularly regarding students’ academic gains. However, a review of three companies’ claims finds that the research on which they are based is dubious and could be misleading.

Full Story: The Hechinger Report (5/20)

I have to be honest and say that I’m disappointed – but not surprised – that this “finding” has been big news.

Let’s forget about the whole media/technology doesn’t impact learning perspective, that has been the dominant view in the field of educational technology for decades.  And for those to whom this is news, technology is a medium through which instruction is delivery.  What impacts learning is how that instruction is designed, delivered, and supported.

But does it really surprise anyone that corporations use selective and misleading data to promote their products?  I mean tobacco companies still won’t admit that smoking is bad for you.  Fast food companies still make claims about the healthiness of their products.  Why do we expect corporations involved in the educational sphere to act any differently?

The more important question, in my opinion, is given this reality that I think we can all pretty much agree upon…  Why do we still allow corporations to directly or indirectly operate public schools?

A deep question for you to ponder over the weekend.

April 29, 2020

Neo-Liberals Not Missing Any Opportunity To Further Privatize K-12 Online Learning (Part Two)

Like I say at some point most days these days, I’m getting a backlog in items that I want to post, so I’ll start posting them more frequently for the rest of the day.

Yesterday I posted an entry entitled, Neo-Liberals Not Missing Any Opportunity To Further Privatize K-12 Online Learning.  Then I received a couple of notices over the past few days of the new US DOE grant program described in this news item below.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Holds Daily BriefingPhoto by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will use $180 million in federal coronavirus relief earmarked for the hardest-hit states to create voucher-like grants for parents and to expand virtual education.

The education department will allow states to apply for a share of that money — a chance for the Trump administration to leverage the budget crunch facing states to advance its education policy priorities and a miniature echo of the Obama-era Race to Top competition.

For DeVos, those priorities include directing more public education dollars to families, rather than school districts, and creating alternatives to traditional schools and instruction.

To continue reading, click here.

In particular, this section is the relevant one:

The first is “microgrants” — what some would call “vouchers” — meant to give families more options for remote learning. Those grants could be used to pay for tutoring, summer programs, tuition to a private or public school online program, counseling, test prep, or textbooks, among other things. The state must allow private organizations to provide those services.

The idea is strikingly similar to education savings accounts, an idea backed by private school choice supporters like DeVos and recently adopted in Tennessee.

The second option is for states to create a statewide virtual school or another program allowing students to access classes that their regular school doesn’t offer. States can either expand an existing program or create one from scratch.


The final option is nebulously defined: For a state to create “models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives.”

As I said yesterday, “some neo-liberals out there see this pandemic and the crisis in education that it has caused as an opportunity to expand the privatize public education using K-12 online learning.”  If Texas confirms my lack of faith in politicians, neo-liberals, and the school choice movement; then Betsy DeVos just takes the cake altogether!

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