I have posted many times about the corruption embedded in the for-profit virtual charter industry. The founder of Pennsylvania’s largest virtual charter school was sentenced to prison for misappropriating $8 million. The single biggest scam in U.S. history involved an online charter chain in California called A3, whose owners managed to make $50 million in state funding disappear. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) in Ohio collected $1 billion over its nearly two decades, its owner paid his companies for supplying services, he made generous gifts to elected officials, but ECOT declared bankruptcy in 2018 to avoid repaying the state for phantom students. The stories of corruption, embezzlement, and scamming go on and on.

Therefore I was delighted to find this excellent summary by journalist Florina Rodov, who gathers many of the scandals and research reports in one place to demonstrate the woeful failure of virtual charters. As she points out, the virtual charter industry has beefed up its already massive marketing budget to take advantage of the pandemic and try to gather market share.

One detail that I found fascinating was the link to executive compensation for K12 Inc., the for-profit virtual chain that has the largest enrollment in the nation. The top five executives receive a total of $28 million in compensation. Beats teaching!

She begins:

“Instead of going to school every morning, what if school could come to you?” an ad asks enticingly, promising students “online personalized learning” tailored to their specific needs. It’s one of hundreds of active Facebook ads run by K12 Inc., the largest for-profit virtual charter school provider in the United States. As public schools rose to the challenge of educating students online during the pandemic, corporations like K12 Inc., whose stock price has been climbing since mid-March, were licking their chops at the prospect of moving kids online permanently. Though virtual charter schools perform dismally academically and are plagued by scandal, the goal is for them to replace traditional brick-and-mortar public schools in an effort to privatize education. While this would harm students, it would most egregiously damage Black and Latino children, who’ve already been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, due to structural inequities such as lack of access to computers and internet service, as well as inconsistent health care and crowded housing.

The article has many important links and I urge you to read it in full. The virtual charter industry has the full-throated support of Betsy DeVos, who lied about their results at her confirmation hearings in 2017, claiming they had 100% graduation rates, when their graduation rates are abysmal.