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K12, Inc.It may be 10 days before Christmas, but there are still a lot of worrisome/controversial policy decisions taking shape in the halls of state government this week. As noted in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, a state legislative committee will meet this Friday to recommend rolling back some important consumer protections in the mortgage lending industry.

Now, comes word that a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow to interview two private, for-profit companies seeking to run virtual charter schools in North Carolina — at least one of which (K12, Inc.) has been shown on numerous occasions to be a predatory failure. As Bloomberg Business Week reported last month:

“K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.

Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.”

Of course, K12, Inc. isn’t an unknown to the State Board of Ed. To its credit, the Board has been holding the troubled company and its whole scam at bay for years. Unfortunately, K12, Inc. lobbyists prevailed upon the privatizers at the General Assembly to slip a provision into the state budget bill this past summer which directs the Board to approve two virtual charters as part of a “pilot” program. Now, low and behold, there are only two applicants for those slots.

Whether this means that the State Board will roll over and approve K-12, Inc. or show some backbone and tell the company and its buddies in the legislature to stuff it remains to be seen. Let’s hope for the latter eventuality.

Lest you have any doubts about the appropriateness of such a response, Read More

Commentary

NC Policy Watch contributor Betsey Russell recently forwarded a story from the Akron Beacon Journal that raises further doubts about for-profit charter schools. It turns out that the Beacon-Journal has been conducting a months-long study of charters in Ohio and discovered that for-profit charters were consistently among the worst performers. As the article notes:

“Ohio’s charter schools have a national reputation for hiring for-profit companies that produce poor academic results.

Only three of 26 states had lower performing charter schools, according to a Stanford University study of states with schools in operation long enough to compare results.

After a year in a charter school, Ohio students typically lag behind district school students by weeks in reading and months in math, the study finds.

In most states, it’s the opposite.

A factor in the difference appears to be the motivation to make money.

Tennessee, New York and Rhode Island, which the study reckons have the highest-performing charter school sectors, are among the six states that ban for-profit companies.”

The story goes on: Read More

Commentary

Today’s editorial in the Wilmington Star News speaks the truth about the controversy manufactured by some on the Right about the AP history course taught in our high schools. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“Students learn from the time they are in grade school that America is special, that it is a force for good in the world, that its people cherish the “inalienable rights” with which their creator endowed them. But history is not an exercise in black and white. It involves many shades of gray, and complex, often conflicted human beings. The struggles that our nation went through over its 238 years are an important part of that story, and the story of how the nation grappled with and addressed those problems collectively represent the pluck and “American exceptionalism” the state law emphasizes.

AP History is not taught in a vacuum. Most students who take the course should be familiar with the basics; some concepts are covered or reinforced in other courses, such as civics and world history. Most advanced-placement teachers are among the best in their school; their students are among the best and brightest. At this level students should be considering a variety of perspectives on a single event and shaping their own conclusions based on the facts and opinions presented.

If the state board believes the course doesn’t spend enough time on the founding principles, it could mandate American History I as a prerequisite, although that would require eating into other electives that also enrich students’ education and could be redundant. But neither the board nor the General Assembly should seek to dilute a college-level course that is designed to promote critical thinking, a skill important not only in job seeking but in being an informed United States citizen and well-rounded adult.

Before meddling with a well-respected history course, perhaps legislators should go back to school and sit in on a few AP History lessons. It could be a good refresher.

Amen. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

Commentary

charterschoolsIt’s funny and sad how humans have to constantly relearn basic lessons of history. The latest exhibit here in North Carolina comes from the world of education where, once again, we’ve been reminded of just why it is that our forebears established a uniform system of public education.

It’s not that children didn’t receive education prior to the construction of a statewide public system that featured uniform rules, standards and oversight. The “genius of the market” assured that some kids did very well.

The problem, of course, is that “market failures” and parental “choice” also assured that huge numbers of children got very little education. To make matters worse, no one was ultimately responsible for the failure and, not surprisingly, North Carolina was a poor and backward state with a handful of “haves” and boatload of “have nots.”

We were reminded of these simple truths about the past again this morning by this story on the Charlotte Observer documenting the latest outrage from the world of barely-regulated charter schools. As the Observer reports: Read More

News

Comedian John Oliver took on (and sunk) the idea that state lotteries responsibly and effectively fund public education, when he focused on state lotteries this weekend on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.”

North Carolina’s education lottery got a substantial mention (at the 11:30 minute mark) when Oliver pointed out North Carolina spends less per pupil today then it did when the lottery started in 2006.

Take a look here.

 

And if you’d like to walk down memory lane with some of the reporting N.C Policy Watch has done on the state lottery, you can click here to read a 2012 report about how per capita lottery sales spike in some of the state’s poorest counties.