By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The legislature’s failure to shut down an academically troubled virtual school run by a for-profit corporation has left some education leaders wondering whether Tennessee lawmakers really want to fix schools or have sold out children to powerful special interests.
A move that would close the Tennessee Virtual Academy, and ban others like it, failed this week in the legislature. The effort came on the heels of withering criticism of the school by former state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman — a longtime proponent of school choice— who called TNVA Tennessee’s worst school. Huffman, in a recent online essay, said his inability to close the school was one of his biggest failures.
The school has been a disaster since it opened in 2011. Students have performed so poorly on standardized tests that even former supporters have publicly condemned it.
Critics of the school say lawmakers are bowing to pressure from K12 Inc., the Herndon, Virginia-based company that operates TNVA. K12 is one of the largest providers of online school curricula in the country.
Records show that K12 has spent between $285,000 and $575,000 on lobbying since 2010. The company donated more than $75,000 in direct campaign contributions since 2011.