Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What's criminal in Florida is OK in Louisiana

The company that bills itself as the nation's largest provider of online education services is in trouble in Florida.

According to this article in the Orlando Sentinel, K12 Inc. "uses uncertified teachers in violation of state law and has asked employees to cover up the practice."

The story is of interest to us because K-12 Inc. is one of the course providers interested in siphoning Louisiana's public education funds, courtesy of Gov. Bobby Jindal's scheme to privatize our schools.

In Florida, reporters Trevor Aaronson and John O'Connor say, "K12 officials asked state-certified teachers to sign class rosters that included students they hadn't taught."

The allegations, if true, are very serious and ought to result in stiff fines and perhaps jail sentences for the perpetrators. The misdeeds alleged in the story go far beyond any simple mistake: "In one case, a K12 manager instructed a certified teacher to sign a class roster of more than 100 students...She only recognized seven names on that list."

The perps, in this case, might include K12 founder William Bennett, who served as President Ronald Reagan's education secretary. Since K12 was founded in 2000, the reporters say, K12 has grown into an $864 million company whose stock has doubled in the past year.

One reason for that spectacular growth just might be the violation of Florida's education laws. K12 "can pay uncertified teachers less than certified teachers while collecting the same amount per student from school districts," the reporters say.

The company won't have to worry about breaking certification laws here, because our governor made sure that companies like K12 Inc. don't have to hire certified teachers.

One of the many objectives of  Jindal's Act 2, known as the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, was to remove any certification requirements for teachers in the for-profit schools favored by the governor.

So we know that if K12 Inc. is approved as a "course provider" in Louisiana there won't be any pesky  teacher certification issues to clog up the money funnel.

But will the Florida investigation prove to be a hindrance to K12 Inc.'s approval to provide courses in Louisiana? Thus far, whenever State Superintendent of Education John White is asked questions about that sort of thing, his answer is that such information is protected from a prying public by a "deliberative process exemption" to the state's sunshine laws.

We will certainly have an answer by January, at which time the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will release its list of approved course choice providers.

Irony note:
A favorite high school Latin teacher used to say that certain miscreants had "more Gaul than Caesar conquered." Check out the paid advertisements on this story's Orlando Sentinel Web page. Without a hint of shame, K12 has an ad posted: "Learn From Home At Your Pace With K12 Accredited Online High School."

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