This NewsChannel5 report, Online Schools Make Big Profits from Tax Dollars, is so skewed TNSC needs to respond to correct numerous biased assertions.  We must be clear.  We are NOT defending K12 Inc.  We know nothing about the company.  Rather, we are defending online learning/virtual schools and support for HB 732.

Faulty statement number one by Rep. Mike Stewart:

“The Virtual School Bill just provides a method whereby these for-profit companies can take Tennessee tax dollars and put it their pockets.”

Wrong Mr. Stewart.  HB 732 merely allows districts to contract with and provide parents and students with an additional educational choice to take the tax dollars for that child and allow them to be spent on virtual/online learning instead of the brick & mortar public school that is not meeting their needs for whatever reason.

Under the proposed bill, when a student enrolls in a virtual school, districts could send all of that money and possibly more, to the private company.  It depends on what the district negotiates.

Please note the word “could.”  Districts will be able to negotiate what they would see as a fair and balanced contract with a virtual/online education provider for students in said district.  Representative Harry Brooks says it’s up to school boards to decide which virtual company, if any, to hire and to negotiate their contract.  “It’s their responsibility.  If they’re worried about a large profit then they don’t have to contract with that person.”

“Every new student they sign up is essentially pure profit for them with a few ancillary costs,” Representative Stewart said.

Regarding profit:  what is wrong with profit?  You and I receive a profit from our employers on a regular basis for the labor, skill or service we provide.  Earning a profit is proof the company is providing a service for which some parents are FREELY choosing over a traditional brick & mortar education.

But a letter from Representative Stewart to fellow lawmakers warns that for-profit companies have extra incentive to cut corners.

Unlike the public education system which can fail to educate students yet continue to get more money and new students, year in and year out, without being shut down, a “for-profit” company MUST provide results or risk losing students.  No parent is coerced into choosing to use the virtual learning for their child.  If the virtual/online provider fails to satisfy the student and parent they are free to go back to the brick and mortar school.

“Somebody has to be human and right next to that student to have an impact.  I’m concerned over the fact that it’s going to take kids away from teachers.”  said Ann Robertson who has taught in Metro schools for more than 30 years.

While online/virtual leaning is not for every student, there are countless stories of success.  TNSC suspects Ms. Robertson’s concerns have more to do with competition – less students in brick and mortar classrooms means fewer teachers and less dues for the unions.   Mangu-Ward quotes the National Education Association’s official policy statement on charter schools:  “There also should be an absolute prohibition against the granting of charters for the purpose of home-schooling, including online charter schools that seek to provide home-schooling over the Internet.” Students participating in the Florida Virtual School have been performing better than students in traditional public schools, surpassing them on both advanced placement tests and state standardized tests in math.

“We should just say to for profits like K12 Inc., take your scam to some other state,” Representative Stewart said.

This is just another example of why union power must be curtailed by ending forced collective bargaining.  It is through collective bargaining the teachers unions prevent any meaningful education reform.  Ending collective bargaining will serve to break the anti-trust power brokering between politicians like Stewart and the teachers union and return control to the tax payers, individual teachers and their employers and parents and away from teachers unions and the politicians beholding to them.  Online/virtual learning can be a positive and successful experience for many, plus going online to avoid violence is another factor fueling the growth of virtual/online learning by parents’ desperate to get their children out of dangerous schools, particularly in urban centers.

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