The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether Seminole County’s online charter schools, run by K12 Inc. violated state law by using uncertified teachers.
Education Week reports:
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Floridareported today that Florida’s Department of Education is investigating whether online education company K12 Inc. used noncertified teachers in violation of state law, and covered it up by asking teachers to sign class rosters of students they didn’t teach.
The investigation revolves around Seminole County, Florida, and its Seminole Virtual Instruction program, provided by K12 Inc., a for-profit company that is the nation’s largest virtual school provider. A series of internal emails sent to Seminole County by a former K12 Inc. employee suggest the company tried to skirt state teacher certification rules to use less-qualified—and, in turn, less-compensated—teachers, according to the report, by John O’Connor and Trevor Aaronson. Those emails sparked the state’s investigation, the report said.
This investigation comes after years of K12 Inc. using its influence and enormous cash reserves (it made $522 million in profit last year) to push their mo del of for-profit education across the country, including states like Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Earlier this year, the Michigan legislature sought to pass SB 619, a bill to lift the cap on the expansion of online charter schools, also known as “cyber schools.” The expansion of cyber schools would come at the expense of Michigan’s already cash-strapped public school system – with the potential to siphon as much as $7.2 billion away from public education. The bill was heavily pushed by K 12 Inc., a for-profit online school company and member corporation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Working America and community members rallied against the bill, which ended up passing by only one vote.
In schools operated by K 12 Inc., students are receiving an inferior education, and dropping out at a higher rate. According to a study from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) only 28 percent of K12 Inc. schools reporting meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards, and only half of parents intended to keep their children in a K12 Inc. school for more than two years. “Part of K12’s problem seems to be that it skimps on special education spending and employs few instructors, despite having lower overhead than brick-and-mortar schools,” said the NEPC Director Kevin Welner.
As we stand in solidarity with Chicago teachers striking for better schools for their students, we should remember that the attack on public education is broad, well-funded, and comes from multiple directions. K 12 Inc. is just part of the story.
One lesson this story is: Don’t break the law. Since the investigation went public, K 12 Inc.’s stock price has fallen 13 percent.