K12, Inc was founded by William Bennett, the Republican writer and talk-show host, with an infusion of cash from the former junk-bond king Mike Milken. Bennett resigned from K12 In 2005 after making controversial remarks about blacks and abortion that he said were taken out of context.

K12’s spread across the U.S. is due in large part to its lobbying prowess and its political connections. Enabling legislation, written by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), has been introduced in nearly every state. “ALEC, … coordinates a fifty-state strategy for right-wing policy. Special task forces composed of corporate lobbyists and state lawmakers write “template” legislation …Since 2005, ALEC has offered a template law called ‘The Virtual Public Schools Act’. How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools, The Nation, December 5, 2011

In fact, K-12 was a major sponsor of the ALEC Chicago conference in August 2013.

Although its teachers generally work from their homes, communicating with their students by e-mail or phone, essays of students attending an online academy run by K12 in Arizona were at one point outsourced to India for correction. Virtually Educated, Gail Collins, New York Times, December 2, 2011

As a for profit corporation, K12’s first allegiance is to its shareholders. “…a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards. [P]roblems begin with intense recruitment efforts that fail to filter out students who are not suited for the program, which requires strong parental commitment and self-motivated students. Online schools typically are characterized by high rates of withdrawal.”

“The constant cycle of enrollment and withdrawal, called the churn rate, appears to be a problem at many schools. Records [at  K12, Inc. Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania] reveal that 2,688 students withdrew during the 2009-10 school year.” Profits and Questions at Online Schools, The New York Times, December 12, 2011

Worse than the churn rate, K12’s cyber schools have an alarmingly high student-to-teacher ratio. “An elementary teacher at one of these schools, Jessica Long, challenged school figures showing its student-to-teacher ratio is 49 to 1. ‘I know on the elementary level we have anywhere from 70 to 100,’ Ms. Long said. ‘I don’t know anyone who has 50 students.’”

“At Agora, 2011 enrollment reached 8,836 while, the total number of staff members — 408 — was lower than last year.” Profits and Questions at Online Schools, The New York Times, December 12, 2011

All of this has hurt the quality of education. The 2011 Nation article reported:

“A recent study of virtual schools in Pennsylvania conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University revealed that students in online schools performed significantly worse than their traditional counterparts. Another study, from the University of Colorado in December 2010, found that only 30 percent of virtual schools run by for-profit organizations met the minimum progress standards outlined by No Child Left Behind, compared with 54.9 percent of brick-and-mortar schools. …[T]he success rate under NCLB … for schools run by K12 Inc., … was 25 percent. A major review by the Education Department found that policy reforms embracing online courses ‘lack scientific evidence’ of their effectiveness.” How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools, The Nation, December 5, 2011

In Michigan, K12, Inc. operates the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy. It has not had major success meeting the Average Yearly Progress standard: “Of the 39 virtual schools that K12 operates that received an AYP rating in 2010, 13 met the standards.”  Virtual Schools lag other public schools’ performance, The Detroit Free Press, January 18, 2012

In fact, the U. S. military has limited the number of cyber school graduates it inducts: “Students graduating from the growing ranks of online high schools are running into a hurdle if their goal is to join the military. The Pentagon doesn’t want many recruits with non-traditional diplomas. Those who’ve opted out of the traditional educational system just don’t stick with military service, [Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez] said. That includes students from what ahe called ‘any computer-based, virtual-learning program.’” Cyber-school students: DoD snubs our service, The Navy Times, May 9, 2011

6 Responses to Home

  1. Dave Stafford says:

    Great analysis of a growing scam.

  2. For all the teachers who write in support of this article (and by extension against online schools), I’d be curious to know how many of those teachers received their graduate degree from an online university.

  3. donclifford says:

    There’s a world of difference between these “schools” and on-line college courses. None of the stories or sources I can find on this site mention higher education.

  4. Ann Franas says:

    I can only hope that the public realizes that Corporate America has it’s sights on the $$$$ that they can make by destroying public education. They don’t care about your children. Students are being used as pawns to line their own corporate pockets!

  5. Chloe says:

    As a current student attending K12 I 100% agree with this artical, it also scares me a little bit knowing that this the type of the school I am attending, I am overjoyed that I will be leaving at the end of this school year in June.

  6. jcgrim says:

    Hi all,
    I realize this isn’t directly about K-12 but it does involve Michael & Lowell Milken’s other edu- business. The Milkens are receiving loads of Dept of Ed federal grants through NIET- National Institute for Teaching Excellence teacher evaluation. TN mandated using NIET’s TEAM/TAP teacher/school evaluation program in 2010. TEAM/TAP is essentially a stacked ranking eval. and has no peer reviewed evidence demonstrating overall efficacy. The only reports on it were done inside The Milken Foundation and put out as white papers.
    In 2012, Duncan’s DoEd gave NIET $40 million in Teacher Incentive Fund Grants. In this grant, the MIlkens have fiscal agency over several poor, rural school systems. Here is a paragraph from their press release:


    “Introduced in 1999, the TAP system revitalizes the teaching profession through leadership opportunities, professional development, evaluation and performance-based compensation.

    NIET will serve as fiscal agent in partnership with the primarily rural Central Decatur and Saydel Community School Districts in Iowa; the Emily O. Goodridge-Grey Accelerated Charter School, Sojourner Truth Academy, Hmong College Prep Academy and the Partnership Academy in Minnesota; and Athens City Schools and Morgan County Schools in Tennessee, both rural districts.”

    Could this be any more a recipe for theft & corruption from poor school systems? Recall that convicted Wall St. felon Michael Miliken has requested several presidential pardons since his release from prison in the early 1990’s and even George Bush refused to pardon him.

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