Archives for category: K12 Inc.

I have written many posts about the scam and sham of cyber charters. They are highly profitable for their owners and investors, but study after study shows that they provide a poor education. Whatever their value for adults, whatever the value of an online course for a rural student, the cyber charters are a pitiful substitute for a real school with real teachers and real students and real human interaction.

Now comes the inside scoop from a teacher in a cyber charter school. It is very thing it’s critics feared and worse. It is all about making money for the corporation. It is bad education. That is, if you care about children or education or the future of our society.

USA Today has done it again. Last year, an investigative team of reporters broke open the cheating scandal during Michelle Rhee’s tenure.

Now, Greg Toppo reveals that the virtual charters are wasting millions of dollars on advertising to boost their enrollment and their coffers.

He has identified about $100 million of lost taxpayer dollars.

They recruit for two reasons: one, to add more dollars to their bank account. Two, because they have a high dropout rate and must keep replacing students.

This is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. Money spent by taxpayers to pay for art classes be reduce class size is instead being paid to ad rise the wares of shoddy online schools.

This is money diverted from its intended purpose. This is money taken from schools across the state. It should be illegal.

More proof that these schools, as presently constituted, are a fraud.

Joanne Barkan has written an excellent summary of how public education fared in the recent elections.

Barkan knows how to follow the money. Her article “Got Dough?” showed the influence of the billionaires on education policy.

She begins her analysis of the 2012 elections with this overview of Barack Obama’s embrace of GOP education dogma:

“Barack Obama’s K-12 “reform” policies have brought misery to public schools across the country: more standardized testing, faulty evaluations for teachers based on student test scores, more public schools shut down rather than improved, more privately managed and for-profit charter schools soaking up tax dollars but providing little improvement, more money wasted on unproven computer-based instruction, and more opportunities for private foundations to steer public policy. Obama’s agenda has also fortified a crazy-quilt political coalition on education that stretches from centrist ed-reform functionaries to conservatives aiming to undermine unions and privatize public schools to right-wingers seeking tax dollars for religious charters. Mitt Romney’s education program was worse in only one significant way: Romney also supported vouchers that allow parents to take their per-child public-education funding to private schools, including religious schools.”

Barkan’s analysis shows significant wins for supporters of public education–the upset of uber-reformer Tony Bennett in Indiana, the repeal of the Luna laws in Idaho, and the passage of a tax increase in California–and some significant losses–the passage of charter initiatives in Georgia and Washington State.

The interesting common thread in many of the key elections was the deluge of big money to advance the anti-public education agenda.

Even more interesting is how few people put up the big money. If Barkan were to collate a list of those who contributed $10,000 or more to these campaigns, the number of people on the list would be very small, maybe a few hundred. If the list were restricted to $20,000 or more, it would very likely be fewer than 50 people, maybe less.

This tiny number of moguls is buying education policy in state after state. How many have their own children in the schools they seek to control? Probably none.

The good news is that they don’t win every time. The bad news is that their money is sometimes sufficient to overwhelm democratic control of public education.

Well, we are into big-time business talk about education.

For-profit colleges are losing market share.

K12 Inc.’s stock price drops after Wells Fargo downgraded its rating in response to the poor performance of K12’s Colorado Virtual Academy, where the graduation rate is 22 percent.

Now a rating agency finds that despite the passage of an ALEC-style amendment in Georgia, allowing a gubernatorial commission to open charters over the objections of local school boards, and despite a likely charter victory in Washington State, the charter sector as a whole is a risky investment. Read the analysis here.

Hey, is any of this about education or just about increasing market share and profits and return-on-investment?

Soon after the elections, the mega-corporation K12 convened a conference call with investors to boast about the opening of new markets for virtual charters in Georgia and Washington State.

K12 is the company founded by the Milken brothers to sell online schooling for-profit.

It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its CEO, Ron Packard, has a background at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. Last year, he was paid $5 million.

The academic results of its schools are poor. The National Education Policy Center reviewed K12 and found that its students fare poorly in relation to test scores and graduation rates. The NCAA won’t accept credits from one of its online schools. The New York Times wrote a blistering critique of K12.

But K12, like some other charter operators, makes campaign contributions (as it did in Georgia), and the politicians care more about those contributions than about the children of their state.

Despite the miserable results that cyber charters get in study after study, the state has authorized more of them than any other state. It has 12 up and running, four more just approved, and more in line to be approved.

I mistakenly reported in an earlier post that only one cyber charter had ever made “adequate yearly progress,” but I was mistaken. NO cyber charter has ever made AYP in Pennsylvania. It was only because the State Education Commissioner dummies down the scoring that one crossed the bar. When held to the same standards as public schools, no cyber charter meets the NCLB requirement for academic progress.

I received this communication from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Just think: You too can earn a cash prize for formulating the best business plan for education.

Maybe it would be like the Milkens’ very own K12 virtual school business, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, makes millions of dollars, and provides a shoddy education. Study after study shows that the students in the Milken virtual schools have a high attrition rate, low test scores, and low graduation rates. They sit at home in front of a computer and guess the answers to questions on the computer. But what a great business plan! It makes a lot of money for its investors.

University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education

and the Milken Family Foundation Launch 2013 Education

Business Plan Competition

Share your idea. Change the world.

Philadelphia, PA, November 7, 2012 – The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the Milken Family Foundation have opened submissions for the 2013 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) at the newly re-launched web site Penn GSE’s Executive Director of Academic Innovation Dr. Bobbi Kurshan announced the competition today. The first education-focused business plan competition ever now features a total of $120,000 in prize funding, and is part of Penn GSE’s expanding NEST initiative. The 2013 EBPC will take place on Penn’s campus May 7-8, 2013.

The Milken-Penn GSE EBPC stimulates cutting-edge ideas that serve the world’s educational needs, from Pre-K to adult learning. Last year, EBPC judges selected ten worldwide finalists from over 200 applicants to compete in a live competition in Philadelphia judged by a panel of industry leaders. This year’s competition will also feature the Penn GSE NEST Conference, a gathering of industry leaders for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to gauge the pulse of entrepreneurship in education and explore new ways of fostering a culture of continuous innovation in the field. In coming months, Kurshan will announce a greatly expanded slate of NEST programming that will take place throughout the year.

The $120,000 in total funding is awarded through the following six prizes:

· The Milken Family Foundation:

o First Prize ($25,000)

o Second Prize ($15,000)

· The American Public University System Prize for Innovation in Online Education ($25,000)

· The Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students ($20,000)

· The Erudient Education Prize for Innovation in Borderless Education ($10,000)

· The Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources ($25,000)

Penn GSE NEST launched the EBPC in 2010 as a partnership between Penn GSE and the Milken Family Foundation. The EBPC culminates with a live competition, judged by a panel of industry experts, and has more than doubled the amount of prize money and number of prizes since it was first launched. Last year’s winning plans ranged from an effort to leverage mobile technology to educate in Africa (and beyond) to a powerful text-to-audio application that is revolutionary for individuals with visual impairments and those with literacy needs around the world.


A worldwide leader in education practice, policy, and philosophy, Penn GSE is consistently at the forefront of education innovation. As part of the school’s expanding entrepreneurial effort, each summer Penn GSE invites the best, brightest, and most influential professional educators, education entrepreneurs, business leaders, and venture capitalists to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania for the annual Penn GSE NEST Conference. The Conference is a unique way to generate new ideas, debate policy, forge new collaborations, discover investment opportunities, and conduct social networking and research.

The Milken Family Foundation

The Milken Family Foundation (MFF) was established by Lowell and Michael Milken in 1982 with the mission to discover and advance inventive and effective ways to help people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. MFF has been at the vanguard of education reform for three decades. From founding the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program to creating the country’s most successful comprehensive education reform system, the foundation continues to champion innovative strategies that elevate education in America and around the world. Learn more at

About Penn GSE

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research ed schools. A small percentage of education programs in the U.S. offer doctoral degrees, with only a tiny fraction located at flagship research universities. No other education school enjoys a University environment as supportive of practical knowledge-building as the University of Pennsylvania. Penn GSE has long been known for excellence in qualitative research, language and literacy studies, practitioner inquiry and teacher education. Over the past 15 years, Penn GSE has also developed remarkable strengths in quantitative research, policy studies, evaluation, higher education, and psychology and human development. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

I received the following news release from the National Alliance for Charter Schools.

They of course were crowing about the passage of the ALEC-inspired initiative in Georgia, where the governor will be free to open charter schools everywhere across the state without consulting any local school board.

I knew Nina Rees when I worked in the George H.W. Bush administration. She is smart and personable and very, very conservative in her education views. She subsequently worked for the Milken brothers, who own K12, the for-profit virtual charter corporation.

Then she worked as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation in the George W. Bush administration.

She was co-chair of the education policy committee for the Romney campaign, whose agenda was a flat-out privatization program for education.

And now she is praising President Obama for his leadership in the charter movement!

From: Nina Rees <>
Subject: Public Charter Schools Win Big in Election

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Dear charter school supporter,The 2012 election is an important moment in the public charter schools movement.In two states, voters sent a clear message that they want public school options that are unique partnerships between teachers, parents, and students and that respond to the specific needs of their communities.Voters in Georgia rejected the status quo and created conditions that support the growth of high-quality public charter schools that are accountable for student achievement. Now, charter applicants who are rejected by school districts will have access to a fair appeals process.In Washington state, where votes are still being counted, voters are on the verge of making their state the 42nd with a public charter school law. If the results hold up, families and children in Washington will have the chance to attend schools that are as innovative as the companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing that drive the state’s economy forward.In addition, the re-election of President Obama maintains leadership for charter schools at the national level. In his first term, President Obama created an environment where charter schools could thrive through the incentives in Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, Promise Neighborhoods, and other reform programs. Over the past three years, almost half of states have revised their charter school laws to support growth and quality. Over the past four years, enrollment in public charter schools has risen by almost 1 million students. Today, more than 2 million students attend these unique public schools that serve the needs of students and their parents.

With the support of voters in Georgia, Washington and other states, and with the leadership from elected officials in state houses and Washington, D.C., the best days are ahead for the public charter school community.


Nina Rees
President & CEO

© Copyright 2006 – 2012, The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
1101 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 1010. Washington, DC 20005.
(202) 289-2700

Motoko Rich of the New York Times has written a good article about the Georgia charter referendum.

We already knew that big donors from out of state funded the pro-charter vote. What I learned from this article was that charter corporations also funded the Yes vote.

She writes:

“The roster of contributors in Georgia includes several companies that manage charter schools, including K12 Inc., Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. In all, committees supporting the ballot measure have collected 15 times as much as groups opposing the measure, according to public filings.”

The charter corporations listed here operate for profit.

Somehow this seems unethical. Isn’t it like a payoff or a sort of legal graft to buy support for a measure that benefits the corporation?

Yes, I understand that it happens all the time. I understand that tobacco companies and oil companies spend money to win public support and contracts. I’m not naive.

But I never imagined that for-profit charter corporations would give money to candidates and ballot questions to get contracts. If the referendum passes, they make money.

It just smells bad. It stinks.

It’s not about education. It’s about greed.

There are few investigative writers in education journalism these days. It is disturbingly rare to find writers who look behind the press releases, the hype and spin.

One place that cries out for investigative journalism is Louisiana, the locus for the most extreme privatization schemes. The governor is now imposing the New Orleans model on the entire state, and many hold up New Orleans as a national model. That means wiping out public education.

So here is an excellent article that does what journalists are supposed to do: Matthew Cunningham follows the money. He looks closely at the money flowing into the state school board races. In 2007, the total spent was about a quarter million dollars. In 2011, it was multiplied by ten times, to $2.6 million. Read the article to see where the money came from.


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