January 17, 2008

Real Accountability for Virtual Schools

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focused on State Senator John Lehman’s (D-Racine) plan regarding virtual schools in Wisconsin.  A major piece of his plan focuses on bringing some real accountability to virtual schools.  The proposal would require school districts that offer online instruction to make their contracts with for-profit companies public.  This is a common sense rule that will help keep them accountable with public dollars and prevent corporate profiteering on the backs of school children.

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focused on State Senator John Lehman’s (D-Racine) plan regarding virtual schools in Wisconsin.  A major piece of his plan focuses on bringing some real accountability to virtual schools.  The proposal would require school districts that offer online instruction to make their contracts with for-profit companies public.  This is a common sense rule that will help keep them accountable with public dollars and prevent corporate profiteering on the backs of school children. 

Representatives of virtual schools and the supporting industry behind them have been bucking the Lehman proposal and the accountability that it would bring.  They much prefer the blank check given to them in the proposal, by Rep. Brett Davis, only briefly mentioned in today’s story.  It seems that the Davis’ idea is to simply throw a lot more taxpayer money at the schools and the for-profit companies that they utilize.  Although it goes without saying, virtual schools do not have nearly the same level of expense as their brick and mortar counterparts.  So one must wonder why Davis finds it appropriate to fork over so much more taxpayer money per student?  Even more to the point, why spend so much more money while offering so much less accountability? 

Given the very brief treatment of Davis’ proposal today, there are important numbers and pieces of information that the story failed to provide.  One, as we have previously reported, Brett Davis has received campaign contributions from executives of K12 Inc, a company that could greatly benefit from his legislation.  Two, in its recent Common Stock Offering Prospectus with the Security and Exchange Commission, K12 touts that $5 million of its overall $140 million in revenues came from its Wisconsin Virtual Academy operation.  Given those kinds of numbers, Wisconsinites shouldn’t be stuck with an even higher bill to an out-of-state for-profit company.   Costing taxpayers so much more is bad enough but offering no real accountability on top of it is downright outrageous. 

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