Republicans propose right-wing education bills in Connecticut

The American Legislative Exchange Council is the right-wing, Koch Brothers funded advocacy group that is behind many of the ultra-conservative proposals that have been sweeping state legislatures across the nation.

Here in Connecticut, at least two new ALEC bills have been introduced this session.

One has been introduced by Republican State Representative Candelora (R-86th District) who was one of only two Connecticut state legislators to sign a recent letter in support of Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos.

Candelora is pushing an ALEC bill to set up virtual on-line schools in Connecticut despite the overwhelming evidence that on-line virtual schools have been an unmitigated disaster in every state that has adopted the concept.  See https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06794-R00-HB.htm).

Meanwhile, another Republican legislator, State Representative Rosa Rebimbas  (R-70th District) is pushing another ALEC concept, School Vouchers, which are designed to shift scarce public funds away from public schools and give the dollars to private and parochial schools.  The legislation, House Bill 6814 would set up a system of Education Savings Accounts, a form of school vouchers. See https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06814-R00-HB.htm

As for ALEC, the Center for Media and Democracy has been tracking their activities for years. They report,

More than a quarter of all the state legislators in the country belong to ALEC, although the secretive group does not disclose its list of more than 2000 legislative members. ALEC gets 98 percent of its funding from corporations and sources like the Koch family foundations, and it acts as a conduit for special interest influence in state legislatures. ALEC convenes legislators, corporate lobbyists, and right-wing think tanks to vote as equals, behind closed doors, on “model bills” that benefit ALEC’s corporate members, industry funders, and right-wing allies. These bills are then introduced, often word for word, in state legislatures around the country.

ALEC’s long-term agenda is reflected in the current crop of bills now being filed in state houses. They undermine action on climate change and environmental protections; promote school privatization; defund unions and stop progressive wage and benefits policies; and, among other things, call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict the federal budget.

ALEC is also the force behind the increased use of “preemption” laws designed to strip local governments of their power to ban fracking, pass minimum wage hikes, and enact earned sick day laws. ALEC is pushing bills to stop cities from banning plastic bags, made from derivatives of oil refining. ALEC is funded by some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world, like Koch.

Over the last three years, 109 corporations–from Ford to Google–have dumped ALEC after the public learned more about this shadowy group, particularly its role pushing national model bills like the “Stand Your Ground” law cited for exonerating Trayvon Martin’s killer, along with bills that make it harder for Americans to vote and peddling extreme climate change denial.

It is more than a little disturbing that there are Connecticut legislators pushing ALEC’s ultra-right wing agenda here in the Constitution State.

For-profit K12 Inc. virtual charter school giant claims Common Core testing could hurt its profitability???

Education Reform Speak is hard enough to understand, but when K12 Inc., the large online virtual school vendor, sought to warn investors about the dangers of the Common Core — a concept proposed and driven by the corporate education reform industry —the resulting explanation was nothing short of bizarre.

Here, K12 Inc. uses it 2015 Annual Report to explain how the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme puts the company’s profits at risk.

A big kudos to any reader who can figure out what K12 means in the following paragraph, which is taken directly from the company’s most recent annual report. Note the wording that the problem apparently lies in that many states are implementing the common core but failing to use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and PARCC testing programs.

FROM K12 INC. 2015 ANNUAL SHARHOLDER REPORT;

The transition to Common Core State Standards and Common Core Assessments could result in a decline in state test scores that might adversely affect our enrollment and financial condition

“Many states have adopted the CCSS, also known as the College and Career Readiness Standards, but are not choosing to use the assessments developed by two national testing consortia that align with the CCSS Curriculum.  Instead, these states are electing to use existing or state-developed assessments to evaluate student performance.  As a result, it has been reported in many states that students learning under the CCSS but continuing to be tested under the existing state proficiency tests have experienced sharp declines in test results.  As managed public schools we serve [to] undertake this transition, and given the growing number of at-rick students enrolling in these schools, perceived academic performance could temporarily or permanently suffer such that these schools may become a less attractive alternative, enrollments could decline, and our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively impact.

K12, inc. 2015 Annual Report, Page 42

#Hashtag# – And education reformers want us to hand our children off to these people?

The on-line scam called K12 Inc.

While children play in the summer heat, parents in Massachusetts and 31 other states across the country are being bombarded with advertisements for the online “learning” giant, K12 Inc., a for-profit virtual school system that is part of the ongoing movement to divert public funds away from traditional schools and give the taxpayer money to privately owned and operated charter and on-line entities that supporters claim are the future of public education in the United States.

But the truth surrounding these corporate education reform strategies fall far short of their advertising claims, a fact that is especially true when it comes to the growing online or virtual charter school industry.

As California’s Mercury News explained in a major investigative series this past spring,

The TV ads pitch a new kind of school where the power of the Internet allows gifted and struggling students alike to “work at the level that’s just right for them” and thrive with one-on-one attention from teachers connecting through cyberspace. Thousands of California families, supported with hundreds of millions in state education dollars, have bought in.

But the Silicon Valley-influenced endeavor behind the lofty claims is leading a dubious revolution. The growing network of online academies, operated by a Virginia company traded on Wall Street called K12 Inc., is failing key tests used to measure educational success.

Fewer than half of the students who enroll in the online high schools earn diplomas, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state’s public universities.

In fact, a series of academic studies have revealed that despite collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, most virtual schools are utterly failing when it comes to actually educating children.

Reporting on a major study conducted in 2015 by Stanford University, the Washington Post wrote,

Students in the nation’s virtual K-12 charter schools — who take all of their classes via computer from home — learn significantly less on average than students at traditional public schools, a new study has found.

The online charter students lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year, the study found. In other words, when it comes to math, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all.

In addition to outright corruption, the widespread academic failures plaguing virtual charter schools are leading to numerous state investigations into a significant number of the on-line schools, including some owned and operated by K12 Inc.

For example, earlier this month California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that the Bureau of Children’s Justice and False Claims Unit of the California Department of Justice had reached a settlement agreement with K12 Inc. and its 14 affiliated California Virtual Academies over the company’s “violations of California’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.“

Covering the settlement agreement, the Mercury News reported;

Facing a torrent of accusations, a for-profit company that operates taxpayer-funded online charter schools throughout California has reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

The deal, announced Friday by Attorney General Kamala Harris, comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published an investigation of K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia company, which raked in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years operating a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” schools for about 15,000 students.

[…]

Harris’ office found that K12 and the 14 California Virtual Academies used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission — issues that were exposed in this news organization’s April report.

The settlement could help spur legislation that would prevent for-profit companies like K12 from operating public schools in California.

The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company leaned on the nonprofit schools to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.

“K12 and its schools misled parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction and loading nonprofit charities with debt,” Harris said in a statement. “This settlement ensures K12 and its schools are held accountable and make much-needed improvements.”

K12 Inc. and its 14 “non-profit” virtual charter schools enroll about 13,000 students in California.  According to the Attorney General’s investigation, only about one in three students in the K12 Inc. schools actually graduate. The statewide graduation rate for California’s public schools is close to 80 percent.

The California controversy is just one of many surrounding K12 Inc.

Overall, about 315,000 students in the United States attend “virtual” schools and like those in California, the vast majority aren’t getting the quality education that the taxpayers are paying for.

But that doesn’t even slow down the cash flow.

In 2015, K12’s revenue exceeded $948 million, a 5.1 percent increase over the preceding year. Since its inception, K12 has collected over $5 billion dollars for its investors and executives.

K12’s false claims may have cost it money in California, but it continues to make similar claims of success in advertising that is presently running in a number of states.

If there was real truth in advertising, the K12 and other virtual charter schools would be using the tag line,

“America’s Virtual Schools – Ripping off the taxpayers, not even coming close to providing children with an adequate education.”

Check back for more on K12 and the virtual charter school industry.