I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, September 8, 2012

K12, Booker's Reformy Patrons, In Hot Water

Oh, my:
The new school year appears to be starting off with plenty of headaches for leading online educator K12.
Like a seventh-grader caught flipping to the answers in the back of the book, a Florida county nailed the one-time Wall Street darling for apparently misleading regulators and parents about who was teaching its students.
From the moment it secured its contract to run Seminole County’s Virtual Instruction Program in early 2009, K12 represented to Florida Department of Education officials that courses offered in a fast-growing virtual school were taught by certified teachers.
In many cases they were not.
Nor, according to documents obtained by The Financial Investigator via Freedom of Information Act, was this a one off administrative or judgement error.
A report Seminole County submitted to the Florida Department of Education’s Inspector General’s office seeking their involvement in the matter lays out the scheme clearly enough.
Mercy me. Why would these people, who only want to help the little children, ever do such a thing?
To education bureaucrats the distinction is a formal but necessary one; to K12 it is vitally important. Hiring certified teachers to instruct every class is an expensive proposition, and thus stood to hurt the Seminole County contract’s margins. Conversations with administrators of public and virtual schools reveal that the economics of staffing a faculty with only certified teachers makes a virtual school’s employee cost structure similar to a standard public school’s. In Seminole County’s case, a more likely scenario is that teachers with certification in one subject–science, for example–wound up instructing students in other courses too, such as math. [emphasis mine]
Folks, when are we going to be straight with ourselves about all this? These people care about their profits far more than they care about their students. Why is it so hard for some people to see the obvious?

Read the whole piece: this is happening in Georgia as well. But Commissioner Chris Cerf and his merry band of Broadies at the NJDOE had to bring these pirates into the Garden State, even though we have one of the highest performing school systems in the nation. They set themselves up in Newark and they're getting ready to spread across the state. Why?

Isn't it obvious?
What the articles fail to document, however, are the contributions made by members of K12's board of directors. K12's chairman until very recently was Andrew Tisch, of the famous New York Tisch family. Reports are that Tisch stepped down as chairman just a few weeks ago, but still appears to still serve on the board. He also appears to have been very well-compensated for his position, receiving both stock and options grants from the company.

Why does this matter?

Because Andrew Tisch and his family are Newark Mayor Cory Booker's biggest financial supporters. According to NJ elections records, Tisch and his wife, Ann, gave just a hair less than the maximum allowable contribution to Booker's last mayoral campaign. Andrews's cousins, Laurie Sussman Tisch and Jonathan Tisch, both gave the maximum amount. Other members of the family are also heavy hitters in the Booker campaign.

Booker's relentless push to expand charters in Newark has been very well-documented, both here and elsewhere. He and ACTING Education Commissioner Cerf have used money from both Eli Broad and Mark Zuckerberg to privatize Newark's schools, enriching their friends and associates in the process. This has all been over the objections of local citizens, who haveno say in the management of their schools, despite real concerns about growing segregation.

Well, it appears that Booker's charter cheerleading has real benefits for the people who finance his campaigns. Thanks, in part, to Booker's bully pulpit, Newark is poised to bring in substantial and growing revenues for K12 Inc.
Remember: according to both the New York Times and the Nation, K12 Inc. works very hard to cultivate political connections across the country, spending nearly half-a-million dollars on direct contributions in state-level races. This is happening all over the country. Your public schools are being sold out to corporate raiders who will do whatever it takes to raise their bottom lines - even at the expense of children.

Don't believe me? Ask the NCAA:
But the educational benefits of the K12 choice don’t appear to have paid off, handsomely or otherwise, quite as neatly for the students. Rarely does a week go by without more headlines centering on concerns over the effectiveness of K12′s schools or programs. Specifically, the NCAA’s refusal to accept credits from Aventa Learning due to concerns over the rigor and standards of the courses is a potentially devastating blow for one of the company’s most high-profile business lines. (Click here to read a letter from a K12 executive discussing the issue; here is an internal K12 E-mail seeking information to comply with the NCAA’s investigation.)
This madness is affecting real students. It has got to end - and that means calling out the "rising stars" of the Democratic Party on their addiction to corporate education privatizers' money.

K12's money is turning into kryptonite! 

(h/t Ken Libby on the Twitter machine)

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