by David Safier
K12 Inc., the for profit, publicly traded online education corporation -- the biggest in the nation -- has been subject to all kinds of bad press. Here's the latest:
Student/teacher ratios are as high as 250-to-one. Almost 80% of the $30 million in state money that goes into CVA's coffers flows up to K12 Inc. where it disappears into for-profit privacy (You can look into the spending of nonprofits, but not for profit corporations). Though the average teacher salary in Colorado is $49,000, 75% of CVA tachers make less than $35,000. Only 4 reach or exceed $49,000. CVA graduation rates were 22% in 2011, but that's better than the 12% graduation rate in 2010.
Our own Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) deserves similar journalistic investigation. It's part of the same K12 Inc. system, which has been the subject of a great deal of investigative journalism, including great work by the NY Times. K12 Inc.'s regional vice president for our area, including Arizona and Colorado, is Mary Gifford, who began AZVA, used to be the Ed Supe's designee on the AZ State Charter School Board, headed the Goldwater Institute's Center for Market-Based Education in the mid-1990s and is at least indirectly connected with Michael Block, cofounder of Basis charter schools. So she would be a perfect person to interview about Arizona's online charter. She should know everything there is to know.
BTW, AZVA is currently on academic probation. A few more bad test reports and it could lose its charter. Its low student achievement puts it in the same category as a number other K12 Inc. schools in other states.
Oh, and Craig Barrett sits on the Board of Directors of K12 Inc. (as well as being president and chairman of Basis charters), so he should be able to open up the books and records for a curious Arizona journalist to look over -- unless he decides to keep the records under for-profit wraps, which would be a story in and of itself. ("AREC head refuses to reveal information about online charter school": What a headline that would be!)
I have a vast library of links to articles about K12 Inc. stored on my computer. If any journalist is interested, all you have to do is ask: email@example.com.
CLARIFICATION UPDATE: I neglected to mention the excellent work Pat Kossan and Anne Ryman of the Republic did at the end of last year with a series of articles about online schools, The Race to Online. They give a reasonable amount of attention to K12 Inc. and some to Arizona Virtual Academy as well. It's just that AZVA deserves a much closer look at its inner workings -- teacher salaries, student-to-teacher ratios, student achievement, graduation rates, etc. I believe the Craig Barrett connection alone means it deserves a closer look. After all, one of our loudest voices for the conservative "education reform" movement is part of K12 Inc.'s top echelon. He should have an interesting, informed perspective on AZVA and the corporation which runs it.