by David Safier
K12 Inc. effectively put an end to the outsourcing story I've been covering by stating uncategorically that sending student papers to India to be graded was a mistake -- or, as they call it, a "glitch" due to "growing pains" -- and they're discontinuing the program.
K12 has left too many questions unanswered for my taste -- Were the parents informed of the outsourcing? Were student names sent to India with their papers? -- but those questions are now rendered moot. I've seen no indication that any family was harmed by the outsourcing or that there are any likely repercussions in the future. This probably falls under the quasi-legal category of "No harm, no foul," which means, even if some laws or regulations were stretched to the breaking point, it doesn't make sense to pursue the matter since it's over and done with. I'm not a lawyer, of course,so I may be wrong about this, and I don't know if there are any other shoes that might fall in the future. But unless other issues arise, I plan to make this my last post on the topic.
That said, I want to get Mr. Number to look into the amount of money the state gives AZVA to determine whether it's the proper amount. But if it happens to be too much, that's not something AZVA or K12 should be blamed for. After all, if the Arizona legislature is willing to give the school a set dollar amount per student and says, "Spend what you need on education and keep the rest," it's only natural the school would make the most of the situation.
One note about the concept of for profit schools before I end this post. Companies like K12 that sell education for a profit are part of a movement known as Market Based Education or Free Market Education, which takes in everything from charter schools, for profit and non profit, to vouchers. I'm in favor of well regulated charter schools and against vouchers. As for schools making money from the education of our children, that sends chills up my spine. The idea that every dollar not spent on the students is a dollar that goes into someone's pocket sets off alarm bells. It can lead to all kinds of abuses. K12's outsourcing is just one example.
As an English Lit guy, I tend to look at word usage as significant. You can tell a lot about people by the specific words and phrases they choose. One phrase the K12 CEO used during the F4Q08 Earnings Call for the quarter ending 6/30/08 (The transcript I've linked to is courtesy of Seeking Alpha) told more about his attitude toward education than he realized. When he was speaking about the increasing enrollment in some of K12's schools, he used the term "store sales growth."
Store sales growth. For K12, a school is a store, and the more students enrolled, the higher the sales, which translates into increased profits. When someone equates a student's education with a box of corn flakes sold in a supermarket, we've reached a place where the bottom line is more important than the education and welfare of children. That worries me.