Virtual schools and real profits: Industry shapes state policies

computer (Medium)The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram published an impressive investigation on a trend that we are seeing in Georgia: For-profit online k-12 schools “aiding” legislators in writing laws that create a demand and favorable climate for their product.

One of the changes pushed by the for-profit online sector: Statewide requirements that all students take at least one online course. We saw that effort here in Georgia. Senate Bill 289 initially mandated that all Georgia high school students complete at least one online course starting in 2014.

But as passed and signed by the governor, the law says districts have to make online courses available to their students and increase options for online learning.

The law states:

The State Board of Education shall establish rules and regulations to maximize the number
of students, beginning with students entering ninth grade in the 2014-2015 school year, who complete prior to graduation at least one course containing online learning.

In its investigation, the Portland newspapers traced the evolution of the state’s virtual school policies, beginning with the Maine education commissioner’s participation in a conference paid for by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education

The paper reports that Maine ed commissioner Stephen Bowen came back impressed with the presentations on virtual schools.

But what had Bowen especially enthusiastic was his meeting with Bush’s top education aide, Patricia Levesque, who runs the foundation but is paid through her private firm, which lobbies Florida officials on behalf of online education companies. Bowen was preparing an aggressive reform drive on initiatives intended to dramatically expand and deregulate online education in Maine, but he felt overwhelmed.

“I have no ‘political’ staff who I can work with to move this stuff through the process,” he emailed her from his office.

Levesque replied not to worry; her staff in Florida would be happy to suggest policies, write laws and gubernatorial decrees, and develop strategies to ensure they were implemented.“When you suggested there might be a way for us to get some policy help, it was all I could do not to jump for joy,” Bowen wrote Levesque from his office.

“Let us help,” she responded.

The Maine newspaper reviewed more than 1,000 pages of emails that showed Bowen relied on the foundation to shape Maine’s online policies and concluded that “large portions of Maine’s digital education agenda are being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to capitalize on the changes, especially the nation’s two largest online education providers.”

The newspaper wrote:

K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., and Connections Education, the Baltimore-based subsidiary of education publishing giant Pearson, are both seeking to expand online offerings and to open full-time virtual charter schools in Maine, with taxpayers paying the tuition for the students who use the services.

At stake is the future of thousands of Maine schoolchildren who would enroll in the full-time virtual schools and, if the companies had their way, the future of tens of thousands more who would be legally required to take online courses at their public high schools in order to receive their diplomas.

The two companies have at times acted directly, spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers in Augusta and nurturing the creation of the supposedly independent boards for the proposed virtual schools they would operate and largely control.

The Portland newspaper probe also looked at the performance of students taking online courses:

In Pennsylvania, where some 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual schools at an average cost of $10,000 per student, pupils scored 13 percent worse in reading and 24 percent worse in math than students at ordinary public schools, according to a 2011 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. The researchers broke out the data for separate student groups — those poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch, those still learning to speak English, grade repeaters, blacks and Hispanics — and compared them to their counterparts at ordinary charter schools. “In every subgroup with significant effects,” they reported, “cyber charter performance is lower than the brick-and-mortar performance.”

The Stanford study may have helped prompt The New York Times to conduct an investigation of K12 Inc.’s virtual charter schools later that year, which concluded that the company “tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.”

At the K12-managed Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania — which reportedly generated $72 million in revenues — the Times found 60 percent of students were behind grade level in math, nearly 50 percent in reading and a third were not graduating on time: “Hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.”

The company spent $681,000 lobbying in the state between 2007 and the end of last year.

Whenever posters here question online education, industry folks complain that they are resisting innovation and defending the status quo. But lobbyists writing laws that promote and protect the interests and profits of their industries over the well-being and welfare of taxpayers should be resisted.

The investigations by the Portland papers and The New York Times will be followed by similar exposés across the country. And the reason is simple: For-profit education, whether k-12 or college, has two goals that can end up at odds. One is to educate students and the other is to make money.  When the latter lags, the former suffers.

Online learning certainly has a growing role in education, but that role can’t be defined by the industry. It has to serve the education needs of students rather than the profit margins of providers.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

33 comments Add your comment

karen miller

September 5th, 2012
5:34 am

Both Texas V

SGA Teacher

September 5th, 2012
5:54 am

Splendid idea!

Our French teacher at the high school I work at retired; all students were required to take French II on-line. Students who were making 95+ in French I suddenly were FAILING. I don’t mean with a 60 something either, I mean 20-30 failing.

Why?

Because the online school is not controlled by the local school and as such, the teachers can hold students accountable. Don’t turn in work = zero. Teachers teach the material; students have every opportunity to learn it. They don’t = Fail.

Bring it on! I can’t wait to see this implemented and watch the number of HOPE recipients drop significantly because they won’t, not can’t, do real work required of them.

LarryMajor

September 5th, 2012
6:06 am

The Pennsylvania Department of Education saw something wrong at Agora a while back and filed a civil suit in May 2009. The whole thing was pretty vocal and the FBI got involved. A month ago, Dorothy Brown (Agora’s founder) and four other charter school executives were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on 62 counts related to fraud.

As in many fraud cases, things aren’t always straightforward. The Inquirer quoted Special Agent-in-Charge George Venizelos as saying, “”The investigation reveals that Dr. Brown used her influence, her intimate knowledge of the school system, its policies and regulations to set up a complicated web of companies and organizations designed to conceal her role and payments to herself and to her companies and to her co-conspirators.”

karen miller

September 5th, 2012
6:10 am

Both Texas Virtual Academy ( k12, inc) and Texas Connections Academy at Houston are rated academically unacceptable. The sponsoring charter fired k12, inc but the virtual school was not shut down. k12, inc merely found another sponsor.
http://www.texasobserver.org/virtual-schools-virtually-unregulated
Houston ISD continues to authorize Connections Academy though the state ed commmissioner denied its expansion due to poor academic performance.
http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Cap-on-HISD-s-virtual-campus-leaves-800-kids-in-1703526.php
However, the legislature allowed them to expand with virtually no regulation.
http://www.texasobserver.org/snakeoil/the-texas-virtual-academy-now-serving-no-6000

karen miller

September 5th, 2012
6:22 am

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is calling last year’s student performance at Union County public schools’ new, privately run Tennessee Virtual Academy “unacceptable.”
http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/04/94-b1-online-schools-performance-unacceptable/?local
Note: TVA is operated by k12, inc

Tech Prof

September 5th, 2012
6:51 am

I hope that readers do not equate the poor student performance cited in this article with online education, but instead look at the conflict of interest related to “for profit” providers. As a society we need to start looking at Education as an investment in the future of our young people and as a result, the future of our society. The payoff may not be immediate, but we must stop looking at short-term financial benefits of budget cuts and outsourcing to for-profits and think about the long-term. Remember, “better, faster, cheaper; choose two.” What do we want in Education?

GCA Mom

September 5th, 2012
9:40 am

If a virtual public school fails, they should go back and find out if those failing students had failed before they entered the school. Some kids are pulled from public school because they were years behind. Some have medical conditions and cannot attend regular school. Others (like mine) blow away all standardized tests, but would otherwise be assigned to absolutely dismal schools. I would challenge anyone to find a school with such a wide demographic.

LD

September 5th, 2012
9:56 am

@GCA Mom – is your school “Georgia Cyber Academy” or “Georgia Connections Academy”?

Tony

September 5th, 2012
11:20 am

Maureen said, “Whenever posters here question online education, industry folks complain that they are resisting innovation and defending the status quo. But lobbyists writing laws that promote and protect the interests and profits of their industries over the well-being and welfare of taxpayers should be resisted.”

When anyone pulls out the “status quo” remark, they are copping out. The remark was used widely by GOP politicians when John Barge called them out for the charter school amendment. He told the truth and they didn’t like it. Since they couldn’t dispute the facts they used emotional arguments instead.

The second part is something we need to hear more of from the media. That should be the headline!

Pride and Joy

September 5th, 2012
2:46 pm

Industry ALWAYS shape policies. THey are called LOBBYISTs and they regularly write legislation for our “law makers” we elected. This is nothing new under the sun. What lobbyist also do — lavish our “law makers” with expensive gifts and trips.
We need to ban all gifts and trips and other thinly-veiled bribes by all groups including special interest groups such as teacher unions.
Our law makers need to be free from bribes from everyone.

Proud Teacher

September 5th, 2012
3:04 pm

SGA interesting. My principal will not allow teachers to give a zero on work that is not turned in. There can be no deadlines for work. We are to “accommodate” the student until we get enough work from him to merit a passing grade. This includes students who do nothing for a semester, but are allowed to do enough work after the semester is over to pass the class. Otherwise, the school’s numbers wouldn’t look good. Really.

Dr. Monica Henson

September 5th, 2012
4:15 pm

“Online learning certainly has a growing role in education, but that role can’t be defined by the industry. It has to serve the education needs of students rather than the profit margins of providers.”

This is absolutely true and the most important statement in Maureen’s post. Charter school boards must be separate and independent from the education service provider in order to preserve the integrity of the school and ensure that the fiduciary duty to the taxpayers is paramount.

GCA Mom

September 5th, 2012
4:34 pm

LD, we are in our 4th year with Georgia Cyber Academy.

LD

September 5th, 2012
5:40 pm

@GCA mom- First, Georgia Cyber Academy has an enrollment of over 6,500 (according to the GA Dept. of Education). With an enrollment that large it isn’t surprising that GCA’s student population has very diverse needs. However, I would like to know why you don’t think there are traditional schools with a similarly diverse student population? In some ways, GCA is less diverse than the average GA public school. GCA has significantly fewer Hispanic students, and English language learners, significantly more white students, and smaller than the state average black and students with disabilities populations.

One set of tests does not adequately reflect what is happening in a school, but all schools should be evaluated based on similar criteria. If you are going to look at the academic history of students who enroll in a virtual school before determining if that school is successful, shouldn’t you do that for all students at all schools? There are over 1.6 million students in public schools in Georgia; I have not doubt that many schools face challenges similar to or even greater than GCA. The choice to be in GCA shows that those students have the greatest advantage of any child – an involved adult.

rbn

September 5th, 2012
7:41 pm

Check out the student performance in TN where state-wide online is run by for profit -dismal.

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/04/94-b1-online-schools-performance-unacceptable/

Ron F.

September 5th, 2012
8:44 pm

Online education is great for those prepared to do it and who enjoy the more independent nature of the work. I loved doing classes online for my master’s more than the in person work. But a friend of mine in school at the same time was just the opposite. For online education to work, we have to carefully screen the students and make sure that those who will in fact work well independently enroll. The idea of all students taking online courses is absurd and thankfully not adopted in Georgia. While virtual school courses are a great alternative for kids to get extra courses or courses not offered in their schools, kids must be counseled and monitored carefully before and during their work.

another comment

September 5th, 2012
8:45 pm

3 years ago I made the huge mistake of thinking that K12 now Georgia Cyber Academy was a real school, when I enrolled my daughter in this. I could not afford Catholic School anymore and did not want my advanced child to be bored in public school.

I get the Carton of Books and the Computer. I am thrilled that we are not going to learn Math 1,2,3. I had only the week before had a teacher either call and say she was going to be my daughters teacher. The monday morning that classes are suppose to start, I sit with my daughter and try to sign her computer and her into the Virtual School. We could not connect. We tried for over and hour. Then I call the 800 number, on hold, on hold. What do you do with a 4th grader. Then I attempt to call the teacher, no you can’t do that. Somehow, I find out from someone that you e-mail your teacher any questions, your teacher has 48 hours to get back to you. 48 hours. What is Virtual about 48Hours. Was I dumb or what? I was probably like everyone, else thought that by virtual it would be like Meeting 1,2,3 where everyone who was in the classroom 30 students or so would confrence in from their computers for the day. The teacher would mainly be up their going through the lessons and the kids could ask questions. But no that is not what this is like.

This is a gift to the HOME SCHOOL crowd. This gives them free text books and all their courses on line. Mom or Dad is still suppose to be the one who is there full time guideing them through the course work. AKA teaching them the course work. The teacher doesn’t check in for a 5-10 meeting but every two weeks as she told me. She has 180 or so Elementary students. I am not a Home Schooler. Even though I have taught at the College level, students in their 4th year of college, teaching my only child is not one of those things on my list. Now I did teach my Children how to count to 100, their colors, their shapes, their letters. I had one reading, the other with severe ADHD just wouldn’t sit long enough for me to read ( she read 3 weeks after Kindergarten started). I have also always supplied the teachers with everything on the supply lists, sent in my donations, and Volunteered. But teaching my own children. Just like teaching my own children how to swim ( even though I was a swim instructor in high school) didn’t work out when they were 2, 3, 4 since I was Mom, and they knew I wouldn’t let them drown and they grabbed my neck. I hired swim instructors, who then the whole neighborhood hired.

All this especially K-12 from Virginia does is take away from the regular Public Schools. I had paid for some extra courses that weren’t covered by the State of Georgia such as Spanish and Arts. When 2 days in I told them that I was withdrawing my child and was going to send her public School. They tried to say that I couldn’t get my money back for the money I paid for the extra classes, since I had paid for them in July over 30 days before. They said they only had a 30 day refund policy. I pointed out you were not allowed to use it until school started. They still tried that my 30 days had past. I said if you want to sit with that policy then I will be calling Brian Williams of NBC News who I went to College with. I told the woman that she could feel free to google it he only went their his 2nd and 3rd year, but I had graduate. I told her I could even name which dorms he lived in. It was a very small school. She said just a minute and put me on hold. She came back a few minutes latter and told me that her supervisor decided to make an exception and refund the money. I am sure that they did not want me calling my college classmate and telling him what a con and rip off they were.

GCA Mom

September 5th, 2012
8:50 pm

I’m not sure about the exact numbers, but I think the enrollment is over 10,000 this year. That is a lot of people who are not happy with their alternatives. In my opinion, GCA does not receive a lot of money. One year it was $3,500 per student, although I think it has bumped up since then. I don’t know many county-approved brick-and-mortar charter schools who would be willing to operate with that kind of budget.

GCA is extremely diverse. It pulls from all socioeconomic levels from across the entire state, rural and metro areas, advanced kids who’d otherwise be counting ceiling tiles all day, kids whose local schools have failed them for years, super athletes who practice 3 hours / day, medically frail kids, religious hermits … There are simply no “checkboxes” for this kind of diversity.

As for a lack of “official” categories of diversity, I do not believe that GCA filters out certain groups. I believe that they do want to not apply, do not know how to apply, or cannot provide the level of adult support required by the program.

another comment

September 6th, 2012
1:50 am

@ GCA Mom, I am sure you were one of those Home schoolers who wanted to shelter their kids to begin with. You were or are a stay at home parent.

GCA filters out working parents, because it requires the parent to sit there and do the work of a teacher, while they are the one getting paid. Do you really think the books and a computer cost that much. They don’t. I just enrolled my oldest daughter in Dual enrollment at GPC. Although she is only taking 2 out of her 4 classes there, her books were less than $200 for the books. So for 8 classes a year I would estimate $800 for High School/College Level Classes. K-12 has 1 teacher for 180 elementary kids that they pay 35K and have working out of their home-office, while their own 2+ kids are also attending the school with them doing the parent thing. So lets say they have $50K in S&B. So that teacher makes a whopping $277 a year per child. I easily pay $50 for a 1 hour tutoring or $200 month for tutoring for one class if my child gets stuck. I did that for 4 months last fall when she had a rotten Physics teacher at Riverwood. Other parents who were rich, were paying tutors for 3 sessions a week or $600 a month.

So based on Direct teacher pay of less than $300 per student, books of less than $800, no facilities, no cafeteria, no free lunch, etc.. They certainly didn’t offer my child any special services for her ADD. How on earth was that suppose to work me facilitaing an ADD child without a teacher on the other end of the computer, when I am the regular target of screaming and hitting. (She doesn’t do it in school, just asks answers too many questions in public school, because she can’t believe the other kids don’t know the answer, so she blurts it out.). So even if they only get $3500 per child, they are only spending directly $1,100 on each child. The rest is going to their corporate structure, advertising, lobbying, and PROFIT.

catlady

September 6th, 2012
6:57 am

I am against for-profit companies taking advantag of our children. Yes, I know every company is “for profit,” but those who markedly prey on the taxpayers by way of the students? No. Our lawmakers should be ashamed.

3schoolkids

September 6th, 2012
10:36 am

Please see links regarding Georgia Cyber Academy (K12, Inc.) focused monitoring report and non-compliance letter in Dr. Barge’s appendix from his statement in opposition to the Charter Referendum. If I had known this prior to enrolling my son for the 2010 school year, we would not have enrolled. Accepting funds for special needs students while not keeping their IEP’s up to date and not providing services is abominable. Will the State of Georgia be responsible for paying the USDOE back for student federal funding ruled ineligible because they let IEP’s expire?

http://archives.gadoe.org/DMGetDocument.aspx/GCA_and_Odyssey_Charter_School.pdf?p=6CC6799F8C1371F63F68560A4C99AA8BCC4E659138D35B221077D84A6D145301&Type=D

http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/communications/Documents/Constitutional%20Amendment%20Attachments.pdf

sneak peek into education

September 6th, 2012
10:42 am

I am shocked about the lack of response about this article. The fact that a someone is helping a state to write policy that would then financially benefit them reeks of conflict of interest and corruption. I am also perplexed that less of the readers are concerned about the poor performance of these schools. I wish the larger media outlets would do an expose on the truth behind the reformers and their quest to gut public education while making huge profits off the backs of our children. Where is the outrage?

GCA Mom

September 6th, 2012
12:10 pm

@another comment: Did you find those numbers somewhere, or are you just making them up? My kids have never had a HomeRoom with 180 students in grades K-6. The $$ you mention *might* be ballpark for your average kid, but don’t forget that there are Special Education classes as well. Free/reduced lunch kids don’t get lunch, but they do get loaner computers and reimbursement on internet service. Field trips are often subsidized or free.

And believe it or not, there are single working parents in GCA. It’s not easy for any of us. But no matter the situation, you just have to make it work.

alpharetta mom

September 6th, 2012
2:52 pm

Ron F. Were you kidding about Georgia not allowing virtual charters? W

bilbo799

September 6th, 2012
2:59 pm

The premise of this post is a little bit misleading. I get that educating students has to come before profits, and I understand that virtual for profit schools can get that wrong. But do brick and mortar public schools do any better? They may be nominally non-profit, but plenty of administrators and teachers in public schools care far more about their salaries and benefits than educating students. Let’s not suggest that these virtual schools are alone in getting their priorities wrong.

sneak peek into education

September 6th, 2012
3:34 pm

@bilbo799 To suggest that teachers and administrators care only about their salaries and benefits is disingenuous to say the least. While those who fill the classrooms do so because they love children, you will find that the majority of them teach because they love to learn and want to instill that same quality in their students; they love knowing that they are helping others find the same joy and love of learning; they love that they are giving students opportunities in life that they may not otherwise have; they love knowing that they are doing something that will benefit the communities they live in. However, teachers have bills to pay too. Would you ask the same of the doctors and nurses that fill hospitals, would you ask the same of policeman and fireman who help to keep us safe, would you ask the same of any other industry out there? Teachers will never be rich and the benefits that you speak of are not as generous as you think or the reformers would have you believe. I think that some of the bloggers on here would still find fault with teachers if they worked for minimum wage with no benefits-they will always find fault.

C J

September 6th, 2012
5:07 pm

My daughter is loving her second year of virtual education. At the end of her first year, she exceeded in all areas of the 4th grade CRCT. She loves the freedom. Schooling at home removed distractions for her. But I know these things weren’t true for many families. Fortunately, this was a good fit for her. But I know that’s not true for many.

The screening process for acceptance in an online program needs to be transparent and accountable. The screening process needs to include both the student and the “learning coach”, since success depends so heavily on learning coach involvement. I think the corporations are taking advantage of the poor screening and milking it for all its worth.

Mary Elizabeth

September 6th, 2012
7:23 pm

I must highlight the following excerpts from the article, above:

“The Stanford study may have helped prompt The New York Times to conduct an investigation of K12 Inc.’s virtual charter schools later that year, which concluded that the company ‘tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.’

At the K12-managed Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania — which reportedly generated $72 million in revenues — the Times found 60 percent of students were behind grade level in math, nearly 50 percent in reading and a third were not graduating on time: ‘Hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.’

The company spent $681,000 lobbying in the state between 2007 and the end of last year.”
———————————————

And this:

“In Pennsylvania, where some 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual schools at an average cost of $10,000 per student, pupils scored 13 percent worse in reading and 24 percent worse in math than students at ordinary public schools, according to a 2011 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes”
——————————————————————————————–

As well as the following comments by Maureen Downey, in the article above:

“Whenever posters here question online education, industry folks complain that they are resisting innovation and defending the status quo. But lobbyists writing laws that promote and protect the interests and profits of their industries over the well-being and welfare of taxpayers should be resisted.”

“The investigations by the Portland papers and The New York Times will be followed by similar exposés across the country. And the reason is simple: For-profit education, whether k-12 or college, has two goals that can end up at odds. One is to educate students and the other is to make money. When the latter lags, the former suffers.”
=============================================

As noted in the article above, “Senate Bill 289 initially mandated that all Georgia high school students complete at least one online course starting in 2014.” Sponsors of this bill were Sen. Chip Rogers, Sen. Fran Millar, Sen John Albers, and Sen. Tommie Williams. All four state senators are members of Georgia’s Senate Education Committee. All, except Sen. Williams, are also members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Sen. Rogers was the recipient of ALEC’s 2011 State Chair of the Year Award.

Mary Elizabeth

September 6th, 2012
7:38 pm

I strongly encourage all readers to read the full New York Times article, linked in the article above. Here is a quote from it:

“What we’re talking about here is the financialization of public education,” said Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education who is affiliated with the education policy center. “These folks are fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”

bilbo799

September 7th, 2012
9:07 am

@ sneak peek

When did I ever “suggest that teachers and administrators care only about their salaries and benefits is disingenuous to say the least”? Read my post again — you’ll see that you’re the disingenuous one.

My point is that private financial interests have always played a big role in education, just like in other sectors, like medicine. Thus, it is nothing new or alarming that virtual schools have private financial interests.

“Would you ask the same of the doctors and nurses that fill hospitals, would you ask the same of policeman and fireman who help to keep us safe, would you ask the same of any other industry out there?”

You’re missing the point. I understand that teachers provide a valuable service. But teachers, like those other people you mention, have private financial interests. Again, it’s no big deal that virtual schools, like others in education and in every other sector/industry, have private financial interests. I never said anything suggesting teachers were entitled to less than anyone else. I hope you’re not a teacher based on your reading comprehension.

Mary Elizabeth

September 8th, 2012
7:08 am

It is amazing to me that more are not outraged by this article, above. Thank you, Maureen Downey, for your courage in posting this article.

Here is more for the public to view – it will open your eyes – of what is happening via ALEC and public education, with a profit a motive for corporations. See the graph below, which I just saw and read, from the “Portland papers” link in the article above:

http://media.kjonline.com/images/virtualschoolsfull.jpg

In my 35 years of teaching, I never served the thousands of students and families to whom I was committed for a profit motive. I spent hours at my various schools, after dark, simply to better serve the educational advancement of my schools’ communities. I am appalled that legislators and governors will now use public school funding for the profit motive of corporations. This MUST not be allowed to happen in Georgia.

If online education can foster such profit for corporations, with ALEC’s help, one only wonders how other “school choice” possibilities can also profit from schoolchildren and public funds meant for them. Kids for profit. Is there no shame by our leaders in attempting this.

They must stop demonizing traditional public education, and start funding it again. I was an outstanding public school teacher, but I did not become one all by myself. I had the resources of my public school district to further train me, after I completed graduate school. There was a Reading Center in my county for the purpose of sophisticated, in depth training of all reading specialists and hundreds if not thousands of teachers were inserviced within its walls. My principal, a doctorate in education, trained his teaching staff in after school meetings, and by interactive dialogue with the teachers in his school about educational techniques and principles. He did not make millions off of the school children. He was a committed educator. County office personnel often gave workshops for teachers. There was a synergy among educators in my county from the lowest teacher to the administrators in the higher positions to foster the expertise of teachers in instruction. This is an asset of traditional public schools, and it must not be dismantled for opportunistic profiteers.

Mary Elizabeth

September 8th, 2012
7:29 am

Below is the published summary of the findings by the Portland Press Herald, in the link, above.

“KEY FINDINGS

PULLING THE STRINGS: Maine’s digital education agenda is being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to profit on the changes.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: The LePage administration has relied heavily on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a conservative think tank, in writing policies to create taxpayer-funded virtual schools in Maine.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: This foundation and its top officials receive funding from online education companies, which will profit if the initiatives go forward.

REMOTE CONTROL: The foundation wrote much of the language in Gov. Paul LePage’s Feb. 1 executive order on digital learning, which embraces foundation policies.

BACKSTAGE MEETINGS: The secretive American Legislative Exchange Council — a corporate-backed political group for state legislators — developed digital learning legislation that was introduced by Maine lawmakers. Stephen Bowen (pictured) was a private-sector member until he was appointed education commissioner in Maine.

FAILING GRADES: Virtual schools have no classrooms, little or no in-person teaching and a poor track record compared to public schools. (Sidebar, A5)

CRITICS REACT: National education leaders say democratic governance is being superseded by corporate control.

• BACKGROUND DOCUMENTS

Comparison of Gov. LePage’s executive order on digital learning and the
draft order provided by the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Digital Learning Now! agenda (adopted by LePage administration)

American Legislative Exchange documents leaked to Common Cause showing Stephen Bowen’s membership and attendance at ALEC meetings.

Emails between Stephen Bowen and Patricia Levesque, executive director of Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Patricia Levesque’s compensation (from Foundation for Excellence in Education’s 2010 IRS filing)

• ADDITIONAL READING

New York Times Dec 2011 investigation of K12 Inc.
=============================================

Below are excerpts from the Portland Press Herald, provided in the link in the article, above:

“Maine’s education commissioner had just returned to his Augusta office last October after a three-day trip to San Francisco where he attended a summit of conservative education reformers convened by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which had paid for the trip. . . .

“A Maine Sunday Telegram investigation found large portions of Maine’s digital education agenda are being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to capitalize on the changes, especially the nation’s two largest online education providers.

K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., and Connections Education, the Baltimore-based subsidiary of education publishing giant Pearson, are both seeking to expand online offerings and to open full-time virtual charter schools in Maine, with taxpayers paying the tuition for the students who use the services.

At stake is the future of thousands of Maine schoolchildren who would enroll in the full-time virtual schools and, if the companies had their way, the future of tens of thousands more who would be legally required to take online courses at their public high schools in order to receive their diplomas.

The two companies have at times acted directly, spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers in Augusta and nurturing the creation of the supposedly independent boards for the proposed virtual schools they would operate and largely control.”

Mary Elizabeth

September 8th, 2012
8:03 am

Those who are interested in sustaining and improving not-for-profit traditional public education in Georgia should be aware of the following connections:
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“ALEC’s model legislation reflects parts of the Kochs’ agenda that have little to do with oil profits. Long before ALEC started pushing taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers, for example, the Koch fortune was already underwriting attacks on public education. David Koch helped inject the idea of privatizing public schools into the national debate as a candidate for vice president in 1980. A cornerstone of the Libertarian Party platform, which he bankrolled, was the call for ‘educational tax credits to encourage alternatives to public education,’ a plan to the right of Ronald Reagan. Several pieces of ALEC’s model legislation echo this plan.

The Kochs’ mistrust of public education can be traced to their father, Fred, who ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public-school books were filled with ‘communist propaganda,’ paranoia that extended to all unions, President Eisenhower and the ‘pro-communist’ Supreme Court. Such redbaiting might be ancient history if fifty years later David were not calling President Obama a ‘hard-core socialist’ who is ’scary.’

The Kochs have not just multiplied the wealth of their dad; they’ve repackaged and amplified his worldview. David’s latest venture, Americans for Prosperity, subsidizes the Tea Party movement, which repeats this ’socialist’ smear.”

http://www.thenation.com/article/161973/koch-connection