Ariana Prothero writes in Education Week about the “Outsized Influence” of lobbyists for the virtual charter industry.

The virtual or online charter industry is a sham and a fraud. Readers of this blog have read many articles and research studies demonstrating that these “schools” survive by the power of their lobbying and campaign contributions, not because they have any educational value. Studies, even by charter-friendly organizations like CREDO of Stanford, have repeatedly demonstrated that virtual charters have high dropout rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. This doesn’t seem to bother state officials because…well, lobbying and campaign contributions.

K12 Inc is the biggest operator in the field. It was started by the Milken brothers, it operates for-profit, and it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The article doesn’t mention it, but two dozen K12 Inc schools lost NCAA accreditation because of the shoddiness of the education they offered.

The article goes into detail about K12 Inc and also Connections Academy, which is owned by Pearson. It does not go into the protected status of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) in Ohio, which has been relieved of all accountability because of its owner’s generosity to legislators and the governor.

K12 Inc owns CAVA (the California Virtual Academy), which was shown to be profitable while delivering inferior education in a powerful series by Jessica Califati in the San Jose Mercury-News. The state attorney general worked out a fine for K12 Inc, but the company continues to operate as usual. I personally communicated with a member of the California state school board to ask whether there would be any action to close CAVA, in light of its poor results, and I was told that it was under investigation by three different state agencies. I don’t know if that was real or just another way of saying “forget about it.”

There are even some in the charter industry who realize that virtual charters are an embarrassment to the whole industry.

But to date, even in Republican strongholds like Tennessee, the abysmal Tennessee Virtual Academy has escaped all efforts to close it down.