The problem with K12 INC is that it is a for profit corporation. It therefore is driven to lie to increase market share and increase sales and profits. It therefore sells itself as the magic cure to education – just as high stakes tests are sold as the magic cure and common core standards are sold as the magic cure and charter schools are sold as the magic cure. Because the future of our children is at stake, parents have a right to know the full truth about all of these programs. All of them harm children rather than help them. So why do they continue to grow like a cancer destroying our education system? The answer is “Greed.” Where there is a profit to be made, some billionaire will be willing to step in and fund the scam in order to get some of the billions of dollars we invest as tax payers in the education of our children. With the case of online education, one billionaire in particular – Bill Gates - has a dream that one day all children will receive the benefits of online education (which just coincidentally benefits his corporation Microsoft). His plan is to turn every school in the US into an online school like K12 INC. We know this sounds crazy. But read on and we will show you.
Four Steps to Converting All Public Schools to For Profit Online Schools
The Real Plan to Takeover and Privatize our Public Schools
The plan to takeover and privatize our public schools is not merely to use Common Core Fake National Standards and high stakes, high failure rate national tests to declare public schools as failures and thereby replace them with private, for profit charter schools – the real plan is to replace charter schools with for profit online schools like K12 INC.
There are many “benefits” to this plan in the eyes of the super rich who are backing it. First and foremost is that the billionaires can get rid of those pesky, expensive and hard to control public school teachers. Also, all children, or at least the children of the poor and middle classes, would receive the same online education – a centralized national education where the standards, the curriculum, the tests and the database of results are all controlled by private corporations which are owned by the billionaires.
There would also be no need for other expensive things like brick and mortar schools, school buses,, school secretaries, school principals, school janitors, lunchroom cooks, school counselors, school nurses, school librarians or playground attendants. The entire process of educating the masses could be accomplished much more efficiently for a fraction of the current cost. Best of all, the entire process could be “programmed,” controlled and monopolized by a few billionaires – just like the Windows operating system. One operating system for all, one set of national standards for all and one giant online national school system for all.
We realize such a monstrous scheme may seem insane to most parents and most teachers. But billionaires live in a different world than the rest of us. They have so much money that they get detached from reality. They have no idea of what it takes to raise a child or educate a child. And they do not really care.
Real parents and real teachers know that real children were never intended to sit in front of a computer screen to be brain washed hour after hour and day after day. Real children need to interact with each other and interact with real teachers in real time. Real children need to sing and play and draw and build. Real children need to watch real teachers and their classmates as they solve problems and improve skills. Each child is different and unique and learns in a different way and at a different rate. Only a real teacher who knows the child and watches the child on a daily basis will be able to help each child achieve their full potential. There is no way that any computer program will be able to replace a real teacher.
But in the eyes of billionaires, their plan is not about maximizing the potential of every child. It is about maximizing the profits of every billionaire. The goal is not high standards for children. It is about high profits for the super rich.
Free Public Education versus Expensive Private Scams
There are two different models about how to share knowledge. One insists that knowledge sharing is a public good and therefore should be free to all regardless of their income. This is why we have free public schools, free public libraries, a free public internet and free public computer operating systems and programs such as the Linux operating system and the 64,000 free public software programs that come with it. Many nations like Germany and Norway also offer free higher education – which is why their economies are in much better shape than the billionaire-based, for-profit, debt-ridden economy in the United States.
The second model sees knowledge sharing as a toll road – a chance to make a buck off of every mile that a student travels on their quest for knowledge. K12 INC is an example of what happens when we allow the quest for knowledge to be privatized and controlled by greed.
It should come as no surprise that Bill Gates is behind the privatization of public schools. He has made billions of dollars by forcing folks to pay him for a slow and poorly written Windows operating system when they could have gotten a much much faster and more reliable Linux operating system for free. Bill wants to charge folks for fake education just like he wants to charge folks for his fake operating system. Go to the Gates Foundation website and enter “Online Learning” into the search engine. You will find 36 grants totaling more than $10 million. Here is just one of these grants:
Free Open Online Education versus Private Monopoly Online Education
In a similar way, there are two different models for online education. There are hundreds of free open source courses and learning systems available to public schools and public school teachers. We will review some of these in the final section of this chapter. Then there are a few for profit closed source learning systems. The most notorious of these is K12 INC. It diverts money away from public schools and public school teachers into a series of scams that harm children. We therefore wonder why any public school system or public school teacher would support such a scam. It is the equivalent of a committing professional suicide as the goal of K12 INC is to destroy public schools and public school teachers. We hope after reading this article that you will agree and ask your school and your State to get rid of scam artists like K12 INC and replace them with free open source education systems.
The Problem with Replacing Public Schools with Private Profits
The problem with allowing private for profit corporations to control our public schools is that all for profit corporations like K12 INC cut corners at every opportunity leaving children with a very low quality education. The problem is not online education – it is that the profit motive corrupts and destroys education. The for profit motive should never be allowed to run our public schools. The profit motive should never be allowed to destroy the future of our children. K12 INC is the poster child of what is wrong with the for profit motive running our schools. Because K12 INC is out to maximize its profits, it recruits children who do not belong in an online program and have no chance of benefiting from an online program.
The above ad may look good. But remind yourself that if there is no publicly elected school board and no public accountability of where all of the tax payers money went, K12 INC is NOT a public school. They are a private corporation pretending to be a public school in order to increase corporate profits.
K12 INC spends millions of tax payer dollars on deceptive TV ads targeting young children
An analysis by USA today found that K12 INC spends about $30 million per year suckering kids and their parents into signing up for the K12 fake school program. Here is a quote from the article: “A look at where K12 is placing the ads suggests that the company is working to appeal to kids: Among the hundreds of outlets tapped this year, K12 has spent an estimated $631,600 to advertise on Nickelodeon, $601,600 on The Cartoon Network and $671,400 on MeetMe.com, a social networking site popular with teens. It also dropped $3,000 on VampireFreaks.com, which calls itself “the Web’s largest community for dark alternative culture.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/28/online-schools-ads-public-/1732193/
Examples of Deceptive K12 TV Ads
In September 2014, K12 INC ran an add on a Nickelodeon cartoon show called Kid Toons. The ad was called “Is Your child happy in School.” The video featured happy kids sitting in their parents lap and playing on a computer.
The K12 INC ad fails to mention the fact that their program robs money from public schools (it is not free to tax payers). Nor does the ad mention that the drop out rate at K12 INC is 80% (their online program severely harms most children).
There is an even more deceptive K12 INC ad called “An Introduction to Online Schools” that features a young child extolling all of the wonderful things that will happen to children if they sign up for K12 INC – including becoming an astronaut!
Every K12 INC TV commercial claims that teachers and parents “enthusiastically endorse” this fake online program. They fail to mention that the vast majority of parents and teachers strongly oppose the program due to the extremely high drop out rate. According to former teachers and call in center workers, K12 INC also targets low income students who have almost no chance of success with the K21 INC program. Here is what one former K12 INC teacher from New Orleans wrote: “K12 Inc. targets poor communities and economically struggling regions; they are easily influenced because they are desperately seeking alternatives to devastatingly under-funded schools. These financially strapped schools are being further bled by the exodus of students who are lured by what I now see are empty promises of marketing experts at K12 Inc. It is a vicious cycle in which, as far as I can see, no one but the corporate profiteers are winning,”
Online Programs Only Work with an Available Parent and a Motivated Child
Online programs work best when there the child has a parent who can devote the entire day to helping the child and go through every step of the online program with the child as a one on one tutor. This requires a very special parent who has the time to learn about every subject the child needs to learn about. Very few low income or middle class parents have this kind of free time. Online programs also require students who are self directed learners. Even then, extra efforts need to be made to insure that each child has an opportunity to interact with other children to develop their social and emotional regulation skills.
We should offer our students better online educational opportunities
Online education has the potential to help some students in some situations. But online education also requires very careful oversight to insure that our students are being served and that our tax dollars are being well spent. K12 INC is one of the worst corporate vultures in America. Every year, they rob more than $990 million dollars from our public schools in the US and divert it into the pockets of Wall Street hedge fund managers. https://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=lrn
As we will review in more detail in the next section, K12 INC has a dismal record where less than one in four students who enter this program graduate from high school. Half of the students who enter this program quit in their first year! In the past ten years, K12 INC has harmed nearly one million children. By robbing $990 million per year from our public schools, K12 INC has directly caused the firing of more than ten thousand teachers in the US.
What is K12 INC?
We will next examine the history of K12 INC and then explain why students fail in K12 INC programs. K12 INC was founded in 2000 and now sucks nearly one billion dollars per year out of the school budgets of America's cash starved public schools. It has been described as a “Wall Street Cash Cow” because of its ability to suck money out of State tax payers in order to increase Wall Street profits.
K12 INC Founder Michael Milken... From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools
One of the largest initial investors in K12 INC was Michael Milken, the 1980’s junk bond king who cost millions of Americans billions of dollars and was convicted of securities fraud and tax evasion in 1990.
The head of K12 Inc is Ron Packard who makes more than $10 million per year destroying the lives of children. Like nearly all the other Corporate Ed Reformers, Ron has no background or training in Education and has never been a teacher.
Ron Packard has a pretty dark background. From 1986 to 1988, Packard worked in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs – the corrupt investment banking and gambling outfit known for bribing Congress into deregulating the banking industry and whose reckless bets crashed the world economy in 2008. Another name for Mergers and Acquisitions is “Junk Bonds” as these are used to finance the mergers and acquisitions – which are often leveraged buyouts. It was likely during this time that Ron met Junk Bond King Michael Milken
In 1989, the same year that Michael Milken was indicted by a federal grand jury, Ron moved to safer job at McKinsey & Company – the same company where both Common Core scam artist David Coleman worked and the head of Pearson, Michael Barber worked. Ron Packard worked at McKinsey until 1993, which was the same year that Milken was released from prison. Ron then worked on foreign investments until 1997 when a miracle happened. Despite having no background in Education, Ron joined “Knowledge Universe” owned by the former Junk Bond King Michael Milken.
K12 INC... Rise of the Fake Online School Scam
In 2000, Milken and a couple of other billionaires put up $10 million to start K12 INC with Ron Packard as the CEO. The timing was perfect as this was also the beginning of the high stakes testing, Common Core national standards and charter school scams. K12 INC fit right in because it offered charter schools a fake online curriculum to go with fake online testing. Just sit kids in front of computers all day and there was no more need for a qualified teacher!
In 2001, K12 INC's first contract was with the corrupt State of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School (PAVCS) was the first school in the country to succumb to the K12 marketing scam. Within months, K12 INC ads were everywhere – encouraging kids to abandon public schools and move to K12 INC.
A K12 INC billboard in Philadelphia
K12 INC Harms the Youngest Students Just to Make a Buck
PAVCS began with 700 students in grades K-2 in Fall 2001 – just before the 911 disaster. The reason they limited the school to just Kindergarten through Second Grade was to escape the No Child Left Behind testing requirement which began with the 3rd Grade. Sadly, the group of students most harmed by sitting in front of a computer screen all day is the youngest children. For example a 2002 report by the National Education Association concluded: “Our current understandings of the characteristics and needs of learners in earlier grades … would suggest we exercise great caution in the use of the online environment to deliver instruction to students prior to middle school.”
Despite this fact, the first programs K12 Inc set up were for grades K through 2. The reason? No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required testing and reporting from grades 3 and up. So working with the youngest kids meant no need to report for the first couple of years. In other words, K12 Ind wanted to fly under the radar screen – even if it meant focusing on kids for whom online education was least appropriate.
K12 INC Creates Its Own Online Preschool Market
We know this is going to sound like some sort of sick, twisted joke. But in July, 2013, K12 INC announced that it was entering what K12 INC calls the Online Preschool Market! According to K12 INC the goal of their latest online ed scam is to get toddlers from Cradle to Kindergarten Ready (where they can then be made college and career ready). One ed reform scammer called it “from cradle to grave” data tracking (a dream come true for the NSA).
The founder of K12 INC, the Junk Bond King Michael Milken, already owns a national preschool program called Kinder Care. Looks like these kids are going to have to jump over a higher bar to get Kindergarten Ready. As for marketing, look for K12 INC to put more ads on the Cartoon Channel. Nothing like using tax payer dollars for K12 INC propaganda and promotion.
According to national education researcher, Diane Ravitch, K12 INC keeps “coming up with new ideas to put children in front of computers and absorb public dollars.”
A wise commenter on Diane's blog wrote the following: “Learning is social...What happened to the teaching that captivates their interest; learning without fear and intimidation; and giving kids the sense of freedom to experiment and explore? The computer can not begin to meet the needs of preschoolers and kindergarteners. Reading stories written by fabulous children’s authors, singing... All the basic needs for preschool and kindergarten are met in an interesting and captivating way with literature, music, poems and finger plays: physical, cognitive, social, and emotional...There are countless rich stories, poems and songs to develop cognitive skills... Leave it to the fairy tales... to teach social skills- living and working together, dramatizing, interacting with building and playing. Dramatizing above all provide for their emotional needs- getting positive feed back from classmates and teachers giving them the sense of accomplishment.”
What is Next?
Now that we know what kind of monster K12 INC is marketing to our children, in the next section, we will review how K12 INC went from junk bonds to junk schools and then back to junk bonds. It is a story you will not want to miss.