Andy Berke: Virtual Schools Bill Worst of the Year

Sen. Andy Berke says in a Chattanooga TFP op-ed that the Virtual Public Schools Act is “possibly the most destructive piece of legislation” approved by the General Assembly.
An excerpt:
(The act) funnels thousands of Tennessee public education dollars to a convicted felon, high-profile Washington figures and millionaire executives who live around the world. The governor signed the bill into law, only later saying that he would have to “think through the consequences” of the legislation. The consequences, simply put, will be devastating to our public schools.
In a year marked by bills attacking teachers, the virtual schools law could do the most damage to Tennessee education. Never before have we given taxpayer money to a massive corporation and said, “Educate our children however you want.” But that’s what lawmakers did with K12, a massive corporation that expects to generate $500 million in revenue this year.
K12 has proved that its lobbyists — at least 10 of them over the past five years — know what they’re doing. The company began advertising online for its Tennessee virtual school before the bill even passed. Soon after the bill was passed, K12 began running radio ads and holding meetings for interested parents.
…. All across our state, schools don’t have adequate resources. Now, they’ll have even less. For each student K12 attracts, at least $5,387 — the state’s per-pupil spending — will go to Union County Public Schools, which contracted with K12 so it could operate in Tennessee. If Union County’s deal is similar to other K12 contracts, the school system will skim an operating fee off the top — somewhere around $215 per student — and send the rest straight to K12.
The company then keeps the funds for its operations, even though it has no cafeterias to manage, no playgrounds that need upkeep, and no secretaries, nurses or janitors to pay. K12 charges taxpayers the full price to educate a student, and then works to maximize its profit.

Note: Previous post on similar thoughts from House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh.

2 thoughts on “Andy Berke: Virtual Schools Bill Worst of the Year

  1. Eric Holcombe

    On the other hand, the public system spends (on average) another $3386 per pupil in addition to the $5387, has not made adequate yearly progress for many years and is begging for a get-out-of-school free card from Arne Duncan.
    That’s another $18.81 per student per school day (apparently for managing cafeterias, nurses, janitors and secretaries). Maybe Andy didn’t notice, but those virtual students won’t be using any of those services that they aren’t receiving money for.
    Who cares about “profits”? I thought this was about the children and their education. If the charters are academically comparable at 40% less cost, why should we taxpayers keep paying more?
    The TEA should invest their mudslinging money a little better.

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