Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wall Street's for-profit "cyber schools" rip off kids and taxpayers

The same anti-worker extremists waging war on the middle class and wringing workers dry are also trying to squeeze profits out of our kids -- and swindle taxpayers in the process.

A new report from PR Watch has the details on Wall Street's latest scheme using for-profit "cyber schools" to cash in on the public education "market":
The data is in and K12 Inc.'s brand of full-time public "cyber school" is garbage. Not surprising for an educational model kicked off with a $10 million investment from junk-bond king Michael Milken.
As the report explains, ex-con Milken formed several "education" companies including Knowledge Universe and Knowledge Learning. With $10 million invested in his K12 Inc. scam, Milken let fellow junk bond dealer Ron Packard in on the action. And together they raked in millions:
The duo prepped to exploit the public education sector, and boy, have they. His various educational ventures have made Milken one of the richest men in America, and Packard raked in over $16 million in compensation from 2008 to 2012 as CEO of K12 Inc. Almost all of that money came from U.S. taxpayers.  
Okay, so they're making a lot of money. At least the kids are getting an education, right? Wrong. Most of the kids don't even exist:
Some full-time charter schools charge state taxpayers big bucks for students who may only spend a few days or a few weeks in front of a computer before they decide that "virtual" education is not for them -- but the schools keep the cash anyway.
Here is the trick. In many states, there is an annual "count date" or dates where heads are counted and state funding is distributed per child. Evidence is mounting that for-profit charters spend a massive amount on advertising to pack in students before the count ("enrollment bursts," one education expert calls it), but once they get the cash, things fall apart.
A teacher at one of these virtual schools said three-quarters of the students in one of her classes never logged on, completed any work or responded to phone calls -- yet they remained on her class roster. The "schools" hold on to the taxpayer money allocated based on student head counts even when a majority of those kids decide to transfer back to standard brick-and-mortar schools.

And as for the students who stuck with Wall Street's cyber-school scheme, they didn't do too well either:
With rare exceptions, kids don’t learn sitting in front of a computer all day.
Using Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) state data, state performance rankings, and graduation rates, the researchers showed that full-time virtual schools lag significantly behind traditional brick-and-mortar schools. In particular, only 27.7 percent of K12 Inc. online schools met AYP in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools.
K12 Inc. also specifically targets high-risk students in its recruitment efforts. That's because children who lack homeschool parents with time and motivation tend not to take advantage of the virtual schools or demand more from the service. That means lower costs and more profit for K12 Inc.

This is exactly why education doesn't belong in the hands of greedy corporations. But the education racket has some powerful backers -- namely ALEC:
ALEC approved a "model" Virtual Public Schools Act in 2005 at a time when both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy (the second largest for-profit) were corporate sponsors and helped craft the measure.
K12 Inc. and ALEC have pushed a national agenda to replace brick-and-mortar classrooms and hands-on teaching with computers and "distance learning."  
The anti-worker fanatics trying to disempower and impoverish workers are going after our kids, too. Nothing is sacred.