Corporatism, Education, Teachers — November 17, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Michigan for-profit charter schools industry fires up its propaganda machine


In the wake of the blistering multi-day expose by the Detroit Free Press detailing the failures of for-profit charters in Michigan and the astonishing lack of transparency and accountability they enjoy, the charter school industry is ramping up its propaganda machine. Just in the past few days, there have been two op-eds in The Detroit News promoting their for-profit-with-tax-dollars model as something good for public schools in Michigan and something requiring no oversight.

On November 12th, conservative colunist Dennis Lennox promoted the idea of abolishing the state Board of Education, the last remaining bulwark fighting for charter school accountability in Michigan and one of the very few remaining state government level bodies which Democrats have a majority.

Today we have an op-ed from a representative of, a pro-charter group that took in over $1.4 million in funding in 2012. The op-ed claims that the voters have spoken and have come down on the side of for-profit education in Michigan.

As if. has ties to the odious K12, Inc. which operates at least nine for-profit charters in Michigan, most of which are “virtual” or online schools. The online schools receive tax dollars for their students like any school but have no “brick and mortar” facilities to keep up, allowing them to pocket in the extra tax dollars as a handsome profit.

Meanwhile, ALEC member K12, Inc. and other for-profits are beginning to be found out for the failures that they are. A recent BloombergBusinessweek article details how K12 is failing nationwide, including here in Michigan:

K12 Inc. 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. […]

While the company says its investments in academic quality are starting to pay off, once-soaring enrollment at the more than 60 public schools it manages has dropped almost 5 percent. Targeted by short sellers, who benefit from a company’s decline, K12 shares have tumbled by two-thirds since reaching a near-record high in September 2013. Companies controlled by Milken have moved on, shifting their shares to investors. […]

Authorities in Michigan and Massachusetts have also said K12-related schools will close if results don’t improve. K12 manages the Michigan school and supplies the academic program for the one in Massachusetts. Both schools have strong plans to boost results, K12 said.

At the same time, K12 has run afoul of the NCAA, whose decision not to recognize academic credits from two dozen K12 schools deals a blow to their students’ chances for athletic scholarships or college sports participation. At other K12 schools, students must get the regulator’s approval on a credit-by-credit basis. […]

The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission has also taken an interest in K12. In letters, the agency this year asked the company for more public disclosure of student attrition rates and test scores.

The proponents of for-profit charters will tell you that this is all about parental choice. It’s a myth, of course. Or, perhaps more accurately, a lie. Students in the poorest families don’t have the choice to simply send their children to a different school. That requires resources many of them simply do not have. So, instead of being able to move to a higher quality school, they are trapped in a school with diminishing resources and which is slowly circling the drain as they are told they must “compete” on an insanely uneven playing field.

The answer to this vexing problem is to ensure that ALL public schools are well-funded and given the resources they need to provide a quality education. That’s the hard answer and the difficult task. The easy answer – the answer our Republican legislators want to take – is to the throw in the towel on struggling schools, hand over the tax dollars to for-profit charters making grandiose but unsubstantiated claims about their performance, and pat themselves on the back for having solved the problem.

It’s time for an Educational Surge in Michigan and elsewhere where we bolster our failing schools and preserve the public school system for future generations.

The move to privatize public education is very well-funded by groups who stand to make an easy taxpayer-funded killing from for-profit schools and their easy-to-digest rhetoric is nearly all you hear lately. There is a good reason for this: there is a LOT of taxpayer money that they wish to harvest as corporate profit. And, if they can demonize teachers and take away their ability to collectively bargain so that their wages and benefits are slashed, that just means more profit for the corporation.

Most Michiganders don’t understand this.

And that’s just exactly how they – the charter school corporatists – want it.