Karen Wolfe is baffled: why did Betsy DeVos just give $12.6 million to Rocketship charter chain, which has a dismal record? Rocketship puts poor kids in front of computers and employs teacher aides to save money.

“Silicon Valley-based Rocketship is a charter school chain with a bevy of star backers that’s reported sky-high student achievement and recently landed a $12.6 million grant from Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education. But beyond the hype is a galaxy of problems, including plummeting test scores, litigation and allegations of student mistreatment.

Co-founded by the brain behind Yahoo’s first advertising platform, John Danner and Teach For America alum, Preston Smith, Rocketship has attracted the support of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists whose fortunes were made disrupting industries with tech: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and early Apple investor Arthur Rock, among others.

“Rocketship has grown over the last decade into a network of thirteen schools around the country, serving nearly 8,000 kindergarten through fifth-grade students who are overwhelmingly poor and Latino. The venture proclaims it is “dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap” with a business model which, Education Week explains, “replace[s] one credentialed teacher per grade with software and an hourly-wage aide, freeing up $500,000 yearly per school.”

“Rocketship’s initial results were promising. But the charter chain’s sky-high student outcomes have not held up: A 2014 analysis by the California Department of Education found that in the previous five years the number of Rocketship students scoring at the “proficient” level or above on California state tests fell by 30 percentage points in English and 14 percentage points in math…

“For years education activists and district officials have been raising alarms about Rocketship’s negative effect on student well-being. Students just five to ten years old sit in front of computers for 80 to100 minutes per day. The schools track, to the minute, the time that each elementary school child spends online, and their percentage of “goals” reached. That screen time is so valued by Rocketship that there’s almost no time for art or play. Students are even discouraged from taking bathroom breaks. One former teacher told NPR, “I’ve never had second-graders pee their pants except for at Rocketship.”

“A family physician in Santa Clara County with patients in Rocketship schools wrote the school board a letter noting a pattern of urinary tract infections and extreme stress.

“Parents and former employees have also raised concerns about safety due to a student to teacher ratio around thirty-seven to one, and about the school’s extreme no-talking policy called “Zone Zero” they claim “amounted to hours of enforced silence.”

Why? Replicating failing charters is not good for children, but it helps advance the DeVos agenda of privatization and union-busting.