“Defend Your Profit Model.” March 18th K12 Inc. Hearings

by John Laesch, posted on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 at 7:33 am

When the K12 Inc. executive stammered, Dean Fisher, a Yorkville School Board member repeated his question, “defend your profit model.”  The questions came after the K12 Inc. corporate executive had made a 20-minute presentation to the board and administrators of Yorkville District 115.

K12 Yorkville Hearing

The real world questions kept coming like a series of body blows to K12 Inc., the for-profit virtual education provider that has come under fire nationally for low test scores, scandals, lawsuits and cover-ups.

K12 inc., a for-profit company is out pushing their business model to 18 suburban school districts in Illinois, attempting to set up an 18-district virtual charter school. With the exception of Aurora, Carpentersville, and Elgin, a majority of the districts K12 is angling to do business with are wealthy suburban districts.

The Board Did Their Homework:

I’ve never been more proud of a local governing body as I was on March 18th. I attended one school board meeting in Naperville District 204 and one meeting in Yorkville District 115. School board members and administrators had done their homework and they were prepared.

I thought to myself, if lawmakers in Washington and Springfield did as much homework as these local school board members and superintendents had, America and Illinois would not be in this mess that we are. More succinctly, K12 Inc. probably wouldn’t be here tonight if someone at the state level had not made it easier for charter schools to set up shop in Illinois. The irony, I suppose, is that school board members make no money - they volunteer. Springfield lawmakers who probably don’t read the details of any legislation get paid a full-time salary and benefits for part-time work. Board members, listening to you made me start believing in representative government again - I can’t thank you enough!

Repeated questions attempted to understand K12’s academic performance. In Naperville, board members kept asking for K12’s “data” and academic performance. The spokesperson from K12 played dumb, “I don’t know. I will have to get back to you.” Board member, Dawn DeSart pushed back, “I can’t believe that you are in the education business, and you can’t even quote us your average ACT score! It’s the basic barometer of academic achievement.” K12 Inc. didn’t have an answer or refused to share the truth.

NIJwJ members and activists from the other ten school districts reported back with similar stories - an informed school board and no substance from K12 Inc.  Additionally, I think Sharnell Jackson was the only board member of the “nonprofit” to appear at any of the ten hearings. She made a statement in Elgin.

K12 Inc. Was Not Ready or Simply Didn’t Care:

The agent of K12 Inc. handled the “defend your profit model” question like they did everything last night. The young woman said that she would have to defer back to Randall Greenway. They also often said they would have to defer back to the board [referring to the non-profit board that didn't bother showing up]. Throughout both presentations (Districts 204 and 115), K12 kept having to promise to “get back to you.” Often the school board members or administrators knew more about Illinois law than the applicant and frequently corrected K12’s answers.

District 204 records their school board hearings. You can watch the video here.

It occurs to me that K12 Inc. might not really care about the outcomes of the March 18th, 19th, 20th and 27th board hearings. Maybe they are just jumping through the hoops and hoping to get a free pass by the Illinois Charter Commission. I’m not sure how that will work if 18 school boards soundly reject K12’s application and the commission somehow says “yes.”

K12 Yorkville_nonprofit board

While K12 Inc., the for profit company showed up to make a presentation, the people who didn’t bother showing up in Naperville or Yorkville were the five members of the “not-for-profit” board. I took a photo of their names.

Illinois charter law requires that the charter school be a “nonprofit entity.”

(105 ILCS 5/27A-5)

Sec. 27A-5. Charter school; legal entity; requirements.

(a) A charter school shall be a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, non-home based, and non-profit school. A charter school shall be organized and operated as a nonprofit corporation or other discrete, legal, nonprofit entity authorized under the laws of the State of Illinois.

In my mind, this brings up some serious legal questions.  The people who showed up to 10 Illinois school districts last night represented a for profit company, K12 Inc.  To my knowledge, the nonprofit entity, Virtual Learning Solutions of St. Charles, IL, only sent one member to Elgin to make a short comment during the public comments section.

I understand that there were ten hearings on one night, but couldn’t these people at least arrange a virtual question and answer session with local school boards? If they were serious about starting a nonprofit virtual charter, they might have wanted to display their technology.

Maybe the combination of 200 school board members and administrators firing questions at five board members presented some problems. Then again, in Florida, one K12 Inc. teacher is tasked with serving 275 students. Would that teacher not face the same challenges?

In Naperville, K12 Inc. said that eight teachers would teach 318 students, a 40:1 ratio. Why can’t five board members of the “nonprofit” handle 200 school board members and administrators who have questions about their “nonprofit?”

Enough Sizzle and Fizzle, Time for the Steak:

Val Dranias, the president of the Indian Prairie Education Association answered the questions that K12 Inc. didn’t. She used about twenty PowerPoint slides to point out K12 Inc’s failure to deliver good grades.

She cited national data from multiple sources that she described as “troubling at best, at worst it shows devastating repercussions for the students and our district.”

She cited the National Education Policy Center report that K12 Inc’s calls “biased.”

The Fox Valley Labor Paper did a good job of covering Val’s comments.

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One Response to ““Defend Your Profit Model.” March 18th K12 Inc. Hearings”

  1. [...] making 16 similar presentations at public hearings over the course of 10 days in the Fox Valley, and receiving hundreds of tough questions, K12 Inc. finally showed up with a panel of executives.  I counted seven K12 Inc. executives, one [...]

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