Virtual School Meanderings

February 26, 2017

EBSCO Alerts

ebscoFirst, the alert for virtual school this week.

1. TI- Online Schooling in the United States: A Response to Saultz and Fusarelli.
AU- Beck, Dennis1
AU- LaFrance, Jason2
JN- Journal of School Choice
PD- Jan-Mar2017, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p42-59
PG- 18p
DT- 20170101
PT- Article
AB- In this paper, we discuss some concerns and recommendations of Saultz and Fusarelli (2017), offering nuanced and detailed views of online schooling from a different perspective. This includes addressing challenges regarding online learning such as fluctuating enrollments, financial concerns, quality assurance, and accountability. In addition, we propose recommendations related to funding, better quality data, and oversight and monitoring. We conclude with a short discussion of the need for differentiated research for specific online learning contexts. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
AB- Copyright of Journal of School Choice is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material or the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)
DE- DISTANCE education
DE- EDUCATIONAL accountability
DE- QUALITY assurance
DE- CHARTER schools
DE- LEARNING
DE- EDUCATION — Aims & objectives
DE- VIRTUAL schools
KW- accountability
KW- cyber charter school
KW- online learning
KW- quality assurance
KW- virtual school
IC- 611699 All Other Miscellaneous Schools and Instruction
IC- 923110 Administration of Education Programs
AD- 1Curriculum and Instruction, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
AD- 2School of Education, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida, USA
IS- 15582159
DI- 10.1080/15582159.2016.1272937
AN- 121307156

Next, the alert for cyber school.

1. TI- Growing cyber charter school moving to bigger digs.
AU- O’connor, David  davido@cpbj.com
JN- Central Penn Business Journal
PD- 2/10/2017, Vol. 33 Issue 7, p3-9
PG- 3p
DT- 20170210
PT- Article
AB- The article discusses the working and future plans of Commonwealth Charter Academy located in Harrisburg along with comments from its former administration teacher Maurice Flurie and COO Thomas Longenecker. Details regarding the cyber charter school’s teachers and students, teaching methods and meeting student’s needs are also discussed. Particular focus is on future growth plans of the school including moving of its two offices into one site and building a family service center.
DE- Schools
DE- Expansion (Business)
SU- Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (Midland, Pa.)
SU- Teaching methods
SU- Students
IC- 611110 Elementary and Secondary Schools
IC- 611699 All Other Miscellaneous Schools and Instruction
IS- 10583599
AN- 121246463

2. TI- Online Schooling: A Cautionary Tale.
AU- Saultz, Andrew1
AU- Fusarelli, Lance D.2
JN- Journal of School Choice
PD- Jan-Mar2017, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p29-41
PG- 13p
DT- 20170101
PT- Article
AB- In this controversy piece, we portray online learning as growing too fast for existing regulatory structures to oversee and generally as having failed to live up to its potential. Operators, particularly for-profit operators, have generally not produced successful schools. We urge reforms of cyber schooling funding mechanisms, data systems, and oversight. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
AB- Copyright of Journal of School Choice is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)
DE- DISTANCE education
DE- SCHOOL choice
DE- LEARNING
DE- CLASSROOM environment
DE- VIRTUAL schools
DE- CHARTER schools
KW- cyber schooling
KW- online schooling
KW- school choice
IC- 923110 Administration of Education Programs
IC- 611699 All Other Miscellaneous Schools and Instruction
AD- 1Educational Leadership, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA
AD- 2Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
IS- 15582159
DI- 10.1080/15582159.2016.1272928
AN- 121307155

3. TI- Online Schooling in the United States: A Response to Saultz and Fusarelli.
AU- Beck, Dennis1
AU- LaFrance, Jason2
JN- Journal of School Choice
PD- Jan-Mar2017, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p42-59
PG- 18p
DT- 20170101
PT- Article
AB- In this paper, we discuss some concerns and recommendations of Saultz and Fusarelli (2017), offering nuanced and detailed views of online schooling from a different perspective. This includes addressing challenges regarding online learning such as fluctuating enrollments, financial concerns, quality assurance, and accountability. In addition, we propose recommendations related to funding, better quality data, and oversight and monitoring. We conclude with a short discussion of the need for differentiated research for specific online learning contexts. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
AB- Copyright of Journal of School Choice is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)
DE- DISTANCE education
DE- EDUCATIONAL accountability
DE- QUALITY assurance
DE- CHARTER schools
DE- LEARNING
DE- EDUCATION — Aims & objectives
DE- VIRTUAL schools
KW- accountability
KW- cyber charter school
KW- online learning
KW- quality assurance
KW- virtual school
IC- 611699 All Other Miscellaneous Schools and Instruction
IC- 923110 Administration of Education Programs
AD- 1Curriculum and Instruction, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
AD- 2School of Education, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida, USA
IS- 15582159
DI- 10.1080/15582159.2016.1272937
AN- 121307156

Finally, once again I did not receive the alert for K-12 online learning.

February 25, 2017

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the ASCD SmartBrief.

4 ways to keep learning during snow days

4 ways to keep learning during snow days
(Pixabay)
Educators at a school that has had 10 snow days this school year have developed a protocol for digital learning days. In this blog post, educators Alyssa Tormala and Ellie Gilbert share the hallmarks of the program, including a digital learning platform, access to devices and learning objectives.
Edutopia.org (2/17)

R.I. sets personalized learning goals

R.I. takes steps to personalize learning
(iStock)
Officials in Rhode Island are developing a statewide vision for personalized learning in K-12 schools. A recently released document, called the Creating a Shared Understanding of Personalized Learning for Rhode Island, identifies how personalized learning can help each student.
Education Week (tiered subscription model) (2/22)

Survey reveals online-learning trends

A survey of more than 2.5 million students and teachers in 160 countries reveals online-learning trends among high-school and college students. The GoConqr survey found, among other things, that online learning tends to be done alone.
eCampus News (free registration) (2/23)

Similarly, the SmartBrief for EdTech.

Schools investing in digital curricula, survey finds

Eighty-six percent of K-12 schools and districts responding to a recent survey say they’ll be spending more on digital curricula this year. Schools can maximize the effectiveness of curricula by offering more professional development and training, experts suggest.
EdTech magazine online (2/22)Other News

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

Students logging into more virtual options

Through a new partnership with Michigan Virtual School, St. Clair County RESA is hoping to up the number of virtual courses taken in the county while …

@FGCU_MTen Outlasts Charlotte 4-3

Florida Virtual School/Texas Christian University) and Ezequiel Cerrini (Sunny Isles Beach, Fla./Homeschool) had to fight off a Charlotte rally.

New Principal Named at West Forsyth High School

He’s been a math teacher and curriculum developer at Georgia Virtual School and, before that, worked as a math teacher for Fulton County schools.

Virtual school choice must come with accountability

Online education may not be new, but for the Blue Water Area, competition among virtual schools is a novelty. Competition is good, but it is reasonable …

@FGCU_MTen Suffers Emotional Defeat to Tennessee Tech

Florida Virtual School/Texas Christian University) held serve through six games but fell behind 5-3 to Eduardo Mena and Alberto Esteban shortly after.

Iowa families foregoing classroom for virtual school

The two schools that operate here, Iowa Virtual School and Iowa Connections Academy, are considered public schools. They meet the same …

Missouri lawmakers weigh changes to state-run virtual education program

A 2016 virtual schools report from the National Education Policy Center raised some red flags, finding that virtual school outcomes lag significantly …

Iowa families foregoing classroom for virtual school

In 2013, Iowa students first enrolled in virtual schools run by for-profit companies … The two schools that operate here, Iowa Virtual School and Iowa …

Researchers: Don’t expand virtual schools as is

New research released Thursday suggests that efforts to quickly ramp up online “virtual” public schools nationwide could have a downside: lower …

Florida Virtual School Boosts CTE

The Florida Virtual School (FLVS), a statewide online public school, has developed two new courses to round out its career and technical education …

Trump’s New Education Secretary Wants More ‘Virtual Schools’ and Her Agency To Be Destroyed

How so? By gutting the agency she leads, introducing more “virtual schools,” and overseeing the rise of schools that “haven’t even been invented yet.”.

Florida Virtual School model shows online learning can be engaging

The eSchool Media and Xirrus Innovate to Educate awards program has identified the Florida Virtual School as a community winner for its strategy …

Missouri lawmakers weigh changes to state-run virtual education program

“Over half of Missouri school districts do not offer a single Advanced … A 2016 virtual schools report from the National Education Policy Center raised …

students logging into more virtual options

Unable to go to a traditional high school for health reasons while also … While there are a number of online cyber schools that are completely virtual, …

London talks virtual learning at Smethport school board meeting

SMETHPORT — Smethport Area School District Superintendent David London presented a report Mondayto the school board about two virtual …

Online classes to launch at St. Clair County high schools

St. Clair County’s seven school districts are collaborating with St. Clair … “LearnON is partnering with Michigan Virtual School to give our students a …

Syracuse home to international virtual language school

PEC has built a tremendous foundation in Syracuse so their virtual school runs flawlessly. The primary data center, with battery and generator backup, …

Town Crier: Tuesday’s Highlights

Students living in Natrona County who are receiving their full-time education online through a virtual school or Natrona County homeschool students …

Virtual Schools Market 2020: Key Players, Industry Overview, Driving Factors, Industry Analysis …

A Virtual School operates on an online learning platform and offers courses pertaining to various fields. These schools have a core curriculum and …

DeVos praises virtual schools, but new research points to problems

High-performing students fare better, but they still do worse than they would have done if they had not enrolled in a virtual school, according to the …

Brent Cooper: Using local taxes for charter schools is a bad idea, especially for Northern Kentucky

Furthermore, the bill makes it possible for the dollars to be spent toward a “virtual school” that could be located a completely different region of the …

Meet Jaidyn Conner, CSUB freshman at 13

So they recommended I go to virtual school so that I could go at my own pace and go faster than the others.” Conner agreed with her teachers and was …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

An open letter on behalf of the cyber school community in Pennsylvania: PennLive letters

As we work toward increasing general education funding, it is important that this does not come at the expense of cyber charter schools. With the …

PA Cyber Charter School founder Trombetta seeks to hold prosecutors in contempt

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta and his legal team, who have been sparring with the government for weeks following his …

School budget: more for at-risk, less for cyber/private kids

FILE – In a Feb. 8, 2017 file photo, Michgian Gov. Rick Snyder, center, flanked by Budget Director Al Pscholka, left, and Lt. Gov Brian Calley, presents …

School budget: more for at-risk, less for cyber/private kids

It is largely being embraced by traditional school interests. But Republicans who control the Legislature andschool-choice advocates oppose some …

State school board president resigns over chimpanzee tweet

After the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools accused Miller of suggesting that cyber students were monkeys, he apologized for the tweet …

Norwin School Board may raise property taxes to cover $2.2M projected deficit

An increase in pension, health care and cyber school costs coupled with only a slight increase in state aid may push the Norwin School Board to raise …

CenturyLink, City of Monroe and local school partner to invest in STEM education initiative

CenturyLink, City of Monroe and local school partner to invest in STEM … City School System, the Ouachita Parish School System and the Cyber …

Snyder unveils funding proposal

n Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing that the state allocate more funds per student and rethink how it funds at-risk student, cyber-school programs.

LETTER: ‘Extremely happy’ with education at Pennsylvania Cyber

You are left to believe that a cyber school student’s education is behind that of traditional schools. After reading these articles I would like to ask …

Educators debate Snyder’s proposed cyber school cuts

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget pledged more state money to education, but that doesn’t apply to all schools. Under Snyder’s …

February 19, 2017

EBSCO Alerts

ebscoFirst, I did not receive the alert for virtual school this week.

Next, the alert for cyber school yielded this item, but there were no relevant items.

Finally, once again I did not receive the alert for K-12 online learning.

So nothing to report this week.

February 18, 2017

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the eSchool News Today.

TODAY’S TOP NEWS

When virtual class time is innovative, student engagement soars

innovate to educate

Innovation doesn’t simply involve throwing technology into a classroom. It requires unconventional ideas, foresight, thoughtfulness, and dedication to student learning. And as the world becomes more connected, schools are making every attempt to help students develop the skills they’ll need to be a part of that interconnected world. In the…

Next, the semi-regular ASCD SmartBrief.

How will you mark Digital Learning Day?

How will you mark Digital Learning Day?
(Pixabay)
Digital Learning Day is Feb. 23. The instructional technology team for an Illinois school district is working to engage educators and students in the event through hashtags, a districtwide Digital Learning campaign and a Connected Classroom website.
T.H.E. Journal (2/16),  Patch.com (2/15)

iNACOL report highlights personalized learning

iNACOL report highlights personalized learning
(Pixabay)
Educators are personalizing learning to help students excel and thrive, says Susan Patrick, president and CEO of iNACOL, which recently released a report on the topic. The report highlights five schools’ approaches to personalized learning.

eSchool News (free registration) (2/16)

 

Other News

Similarly, the SmartBrief for EdTech.

Survey: Online students pay more for classes

Survey: Online students pay more for classes
(Pixabay)
Students taking online college courses are paying more than students who take the courses on-campus, according to a survey from the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. Some administrators of distance-education programs say some costs are higher to produce online courses and those costs are passed on to students in the form of fees or increased tuition.
InsideHigherEd.com (2/17)

 

 Why some students struggle in virtual charter schools

Virtual charter schools tend to draw students who struggle with performance, according to a study from New York University and the Rand Corp. Researchers say part of this struggle is due to poor support and suggest a federal study aimed at rethinking the framework for these schools.

USA Today (2/16)

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

NC students increasingly turn to virtual schools, but issues remain

North Carolina was one of the first states to have a statewide virtual school. Advocates say online classes give students the opportunity to take courses …

Fayetteville virtual school adds 4 grades for 2018-19

Fayetteville Virtual Academy opened this school year and has about 60 students in fourth through eighth grades. The academy in 2017-18 will add …

Columbia Virtual School’s Request to Stay Open Denied

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – A state board has denied a request for a Columbia-based virtual charter school to remain open following the end of the current …

NC virtual charter schools report lower withdrawal rates after change in legislation

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s two virtual charter schools reported lower student withdrawal rates this year, due in part to recent legislation that …

Online charter gets new look, new plan

The state’s first virtual charter school is changing its name and structure. Louisiana Connections Academy will be known as University View Academy.

After state issues relaxed regulations, virtual charter dropouts plunge

The new data was presented to members of the Charter School Advisory Board … Top administrators for the state’s two virtual charter schools boasted …

School districts make pitch for open enrollment

Pelz noted some families have previously enrolled out to attend virtual school and the district is working to get them to enroll into Beloit’s virtual school …

Are home-school athletes flocking to play public-school sports? See AHSAA stats

The Alabama High School Athletic Association passed legislation in April 2016 to allow home-school students – as well as charter and virtual school …

Florida Virtual School Boosts CTE

The Florida Virtual School (FLVS), a statewide online public school, has developed two new courses to round out its career and technical education …

School board considers Department of Juvenile Justice facility

Mitchell said they plan to provide the education through virtual school with the possibility of an academic teacher, an ESE teacher and a career and …

Florida Virtual School model shows online learning can be engaging

The eSchool Media and Xirrus Innovate to Educate awards program has identified the Florida Virtual School as a community winner for its strategy …

Partnership delivers online high school courses

LearnON is a partnership between St. Clair County RESA and Michigan Virtual School, said Kevin Miller, the director of administrative services for the …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

Growing cyber charter school moving to bigger digs

Commonwealth Charter Academy COO Tom Longenecker, left, and CEO Maurice Flurie are spearheading the public cyber charter school’s move into …

School districts voice opposition to property tax elimination

“At Wissahickon, like other Montgomery County school districts represented here today, it is … Concerns about cyber charter schools were also raised.

Family Finds Online School to Be a Lifesaver

But having access to an online charter school has been a great help. … Cyber schools are independent entities that deliver most or all of their program …

Snyder: Cut funding for cyber charter schools

Cyber charter schools could see their funding cut under a budget proposal released today by Gov. Rick Snyder. The funding cut, if approved by the …

Area schools work to improve, maintain graduation rates

Ringgold High School student Montell Carlock does class work in the cyberschool lab. The district has a cyber program with a lab at school with …

Some Montgomery County school districts oppose property tax elimination

6 press conference at Souderton Area School District’s E. M. Crouthamel Elementary …. Concerns aboutcyber charter schools were also raised.

PA Cyber Charter School founder Trombetta seeks to hold prosecutors in contempt

… guilty to tax conspiracy in connection with siphoning off some $8 million from the cyber school he founded and related corporate entities he created.

Norwin School Board may raise property taxes to cover $2.2M projected deficit

An increase in pension, health care and cyber school costs coupled with only a slight increase in state aid may push the Norwin School Board to raise …

Dallas School Board address impacts of strike, snow days on school calendar

The school board is looking at options to help the seniors earn the necessary credit hours, such as utilizing cyber school programs as well as having …

State school board president resigns over chimpanzee tweet

… Superintendent William Harner’s remark in the Inquirer on Sunday that it costs more to educate a student at a cyber school than a traditional school.

Centennial’s Mark B. Miller resigns post with state association after tweet

He noted that Centennial provides an online cyber school that costs one-third to one-fifth of what the charter schools cost. Miller said he submitted his …

An open letter on behalf of the cyber school community in Pennsylvania: PennLive letters

Early last week in Governor Wolf’s budget address, he addressed the continual deficit in Pennsylvania, referencing previous cuts to education funding.

 

February 17, 2017

News Item: K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from “Non-Managed” Schools

This scrolled through one of my networks and I wanted to share it in its entirety here.


K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from “Non-Managed” Schools

If you were a public school and Wall Street didn’t like you that might not seem like such a big deal. What do financiers know about educating children? It’s a big deal, however, if you are K12, Inc., and enticing investors to buy into your low-cost, high yield “cyber school” idea is key to your bottom line.

At K12, Inc.’s stockholder meeting in December, its own investors criticized the schools’ lamentable academic performance and voted down its executives’ proposed salary increases. This is just the latest piece of bad news, which has been coming in rafts for K12 since 2013.

As K12’s executives were being rebuffed by stockholders inside the law offices of Latham & Watkins, in Washington, D.C., outside K12 was picketed by members of the California Teachers Association for more or less the same list of educational shortcomings, as Diane Ravitch noted.

Some editorial boards crow when they receive criticism from two opposing sides of a controversial issue. “If both sides are unhappy we must be doing something right” is the familiar refrain, as if there are only ever two sides to an issue or the sides have equal merit.

In the case of K12, however, it is hard not to wonder how much longer the company can withstand this loud unanimity of animus–even a firm Wall Street insiders like convicted fraudster Michael Milken helped launch, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in “From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers with Phantom Students and Failing Grades.”

No major supporters have yet publicly called for pulling the plug, but anti-public education zealots like the billionaire Walton family and the Koch brothers have plenty of other places to invest in to try to bring down “government schools.”

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

In its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, the advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. said K12 exemplifies a “substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results.” Glass Lewis gave the company an “F” for how it paid its executives compared to peers.

In 2015, K12 CEO Nathaniel Davis was making $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and $478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their “performance.” (See more details on their total compensation in the pdf uploaded below.)

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons CMD has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives–comes from Americans’ state or federal tax dollars.

K12 Inc. also pays each member of its Board of Directors between $155,000 and $216,000 annually for a few hours of work each year—far more than local school board members make for much more time spent in general. (See uploaded K12 proxy filings below for the details.)

While K12’s promoters love to mention that it is a publicly traded company, it is also trading at its lowest stock price since 2010, down 75 percent from its September 2013 peak.

Meanwhile, a new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charters do a very poor job of educating children. In general, students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. And there are only 180 days of instruction in most public school years.

Enrollment has also dropped almost 5 percent from its peak. No less a business authority than Bloomberg Business investigative reporter John Hechinger presented grim prospects for K12 as of late 2014, and no one has revised them upward.

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

This decrease in business has come despite massive advertising and marketing expenditures by the virtual schools industry. K12 has spent untold millions in public funds on ads—a luxury budget item that traditional public schools are not permitted even when competing with K12 for students.

It spent at least $20 million on ads in 2012 alone, but it has not publicly disclosed ad spending in recent years even as its ads have become more ubiquitous in markets like Wisconsin and Arizona, for example. K12 does not disclose its ad budget in its public annual report.

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

K12 also spends taxpayer money lobbying state and federal officials. It recently got a seat, for example, on the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where for years it has also paid for a seat and vote on ALEC’s “Education and Workforce Development” Task Force, which advances a “cash for kids” lobbying agenda.

ALEC corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for such access to lawmakers, and K12 has also paid many thousands of dollars to underwrite some of ALEC’s docket of events for legislators and lobbyists.

Through the ALEC Task Force, K12 has actually had an equal vote with state legislators on so-called “model” bills to divert taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools toward the objectives of ALEC’s private sector funders, to help their bottom-lines and/or legislative agenda.

ALEC’s “Virtual Public Schools Act,” for example, even allows virtual schools to be paid the same amount per pupil as traditional public schools even though operations like K12 have no bricks and mortar school house or desks or air-conditioning or gyms, etc., to maintain.

As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

“In 2004 when the ‘model’ bill was drafted and approved, both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy were part of the ‘School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force, according to an archived version of ALEC’s website from February 2005. The subcommittee recommended six bills for adoption, including the ‘Virtual Public Schools Act.’ According to ALEC, the bill was drafted by Bryan Flood of K12 along with Mickey Revenaugh of Connections Academy, then-Colorado Representative Don Lee (now a lobbyist for K12, see [below]), ‘and the rest of the Subcommittee.'” (Connections is now part of Pearson PLC, a British mega-corporation headquartered in London.)

K12’s reps at ALEC Education Task Force meetings have been its Senior VP for Government Affairs (lobbying), Bryan Flood, along with its VP for Government Affairs, Don Lee, and its Senior Director of Government Affairs, Bob Fairbank.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is co-chaired by Utah state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-11). Through the ALEC corporate bill mill, Stephenson has even done a roadshow with K12’s Don Lee to drive more business to K12 through legislation. Given his advocacy of efforts to divert tax dollars from traditional public schools to charters and virtual schools, some press in Utah have questioned whether Stephenson is a public servant or a lobbyist for outside interests. (There is no way to independently verify whether Stephenson has actually ever invested in K12 or Pearson, or not.)

Notably, Lee and Fairbank are both former Colorado state legislators who took the revolving door out of public service into well-paid gigs, like peddling what K12 is selling to legislatures across the country. And, the head of their lobbying shop, Flood, is the former flack for then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who is now pulling down big bucks for sitting on K12’s Board of Directors: $55,000 in cash plus $100,000 in K12 stock for a few hours of his time last year.

Making “Friends” Everywhere K12 Goes….

Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin are not the only states where K12 is active and facing criticism. The “Ohio Virtual Academy,” for example, which accounted for 10 percent of K12’s revenue in 2014, received failing grades on a state report card for student test-score progress and graduation rates. A state analysis found that only 37 percent of K12’s Ohio ninth graders earned diplomas within four years.

K12’s operations in California have produced similar results, as In the Public Interest (ITPI) has documented, despite K12’s efforts to blame the state. (CMD has partnered with ITPI on research previously.)

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12, and in Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman called for shuttering the Tennessee Virtual Academy because it had test results “in the bottom of the bottom tier” and is an “abject failure.”

Altogether, K12 has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also ruled last April that prospective students from 24 K12 Inc. high schools can no longer count credits toward athletic scholarships.

A pro-union decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board no doubt came as more bad news for K12’s brass. The board ruled that the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the exclusive bargaining agent of the more than 750 teachers at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA). Teachers have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for CAVA’s 15,000 students.

CAVA teachers had been calling for improvements for years. In March 2015 a study of CAVA by ITPI called for better oversight. In June 2015, CTA filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California.

K12 Hoping “Non-Managed” Schools Will Save It?

While no one is publicly calling for K12 to shut down, K12 itself is “diversifying its portfolio” in an apparent effort to ease out of the online charter school business.

K12 has built its brand by operating “managed schools” in which K12 runs and profits from all of the programs at a particular K12 school. In a managed school, the company does all of the teaching, curriculum, assessment for the customers—er, students—who choose it over attending a public school or participating in a traditional home-schooling arrangement.

The new revenue stream K12 is pioneering is in what it is now calling “non-managed schools” in which K12 sells the digital content and platform for a school for some other company or entity to run (and be responsible for the results). Non-managed programs have been growing by leaps and bounds as managed virtual schools have fallen on hard times.

The only problem with this model is that managed schools still bring in much more money than the non-managed kind. Some managed schools, for example, bring in $1,849 per student while non-managed schools bring in only $462 per pupil on average.

But, getting some revenue without being responsible for results may be the way for the future of K12: an analysis of K12 figures comparing September 2015 to the prior year showed that enrollment at “managed” virtual schools was declining 12 percent while it is increasing 34.5 percent at “non-managed” schools.

Non-management could take profiting from taking money out of traditional public schools without real accountability to a new level for K12.


CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this report.

Dustin Beilke

Dustin Beilke is a freelance writer from Madison, WI. He has written for a number of publications, including Newsday, Salon.com, The Nation, PRWatchThe Progressive, In These Times, Mother Jones, The Capital Times, and The Onion.

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