Virtual School Collects $5M for ‘Demonstrably Poor’ Performance

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is calling last year’s student performance at Union County public schools’ new, privately run Tennessee Virtual Academy “unacceptable,” reports Andy Sher.
“Its performance is demonstrably poor,” Huffman said in an interview last week about the online academy, which under a 2011 law passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly began operations in the 2011-2012 school year, enrolling 1,783 students from across the state.
The school is operated by K12 Inc., the nation’s largest publicly traded online education company, under contract with the tiny Union County Public Schools system. State taxpayers are footing the bill through Tennessee’s Basic Education Program funding formula. This fall’s enrollment is some 3,000 K-8 students.
K12 officials blame last year’s performance on a variety of factors, including students having to adapt to online learning and the fact that more than half the students started the school late.
Still, the academy’s head, Josh Williams, said improvements the school is taking will raise student performance.
“We do have many plans in place that we are doing this year and have shared this [with] the state,” he said in an email.
Students attending the academy sit at home and learn via their computers, which K12 provides free to low-income children. The school has boosted the number of its teachers from 60 to 121 in response to the higher enrollment.
Union County Trustee Gina Buckner said that as of July 1, her office had responded to K12 Inc.’s 2011-2012 invoices and paid the company $5.04 million out of state funds sent to the Union County school system.
“I think there still may be one more payment,” said Buckner, who noted it’s difficult to say how much that would be because the budget submitted to county officials by the Union County Public Schools system didn’t address the issue.
…Under K12’s contract with Union County, the company gets 96 percent of the state portion of the BEP funding. Union County, which has struggled with local funding for years, gets 4 percent as the fiscal agent

One thought on “Virtual School Collects $5M for ‘Demonstrably Poor’ Performance

  1. Eric Holcombe

    At $5.04 million for 1783 students, that’s approximately $2827 per student for “demonstrably poor performance”.
    Keep in mind that last year we spent over $16 million for these same 1783 students in the public system (assuming they all came from districts spending the state average).
    What kind of performance were we getting from the same students last year for more than three times the money? We know we have the data. Why won’t we look at it?

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