Profiteering in Education during a Pandemic

The current pandemic is killing people, causing millions more to lose their jobs, and forcing an unwanted change in all of our lives.  This damage necessarily extends to our public schools too, as tax revenue dries up at precisely the moment the community’s needs are greatest.

So it is with a special dose of anger that I noticed K12 Inc. using this time to run new ads for their charter schools.  Here’s an example:

Why, in the midst of this crisis, do our state representatives continue to send public tax dollars to failing charter schools run by companies like K12 Inc.?

K12 Inc. is not itself a school, but a for-profit corporation.  They make their money by operating charter schools and taking some of the tax dollars intended for educating students and redirecting them to their shareholders.  All of this is perfectly legal, thanks to Pennsylvania’s charter school law– a law so broken that it has attracted national attention.   Yet year after year our state representatives refuse to fix it.

If you’re not as angry as me about this yet, let me share a few more facts.  K12 Inc. had over a billion dollars in revenue last year and made a profit of over $62 million for its shareholders.  As the company’s annual report glowingly notes, their corporate profits are up “more than 26.4% year-over-year.”  Virtually all this money comes from taxpayers like you and me. As does the money used to pay for their slick advertisements touting their “public” schools. The arrangement certainly works well for their investors!  

But the same can’t be said of the students K12 Inc. claims they are serving.  I looked at the data for Insight PA Cyber Charter School, one of two charter schools they operate in the state.  Their record is nothing short of abysmal. According to the PA Future Ready Index, Insight PA isn’t meeting educational goals in English, math, science, or career readiness.    To give just one example, only 8% of Insight’s students are proficient in math, compared to the statewide average of 45% and 75% at Emmaus High School.  And believe it or not, their performance is actually getting worse over time.

At this point, it probably won’t surprise you that Insight PA Cyber Charter School is run by a CEO rather than a superintendent.  She was paid $199,469 last year to oversee this single online school of 1,626 students.  By comparison, the East Penn superintendent is paid about 20% less while overseeing ten schools serving more than 8,300 students.

I hope you see now why I’m so angry K12 Inc. has chosen the middle of the pandemic to lure more Pennsylvania kids into their failing schools– and thus more of our increasingly scarce tax dollars into their coffers.  And I save much of this anger for our representatives in Harrisburg who continue to enable them. Politicians get away with it because most of us aren’t paying attention. Perhaps now is the time to let them know we’ve noticed: 

And if you’re interested in learning more about this issue, check out two other related posts of mine:

2 thoughts on “Profiteering in Education during a Pandemic”

    In a strange quirk of fate, I knew the recently appointed Chairman/CEO of K12, when we were classmates in college and in adjacent dorm rooms in #304 and #306 at the recently demolished Hayden Hall during our 2nd and 3rd years. He and his roommate were both very serious guys, and it’s great to see how well Nate did after being one of the first graduates who came from the STEP program, which gave minority kids access to Technical Enrichment and mentorship during HS.

    On charter schools, many of the students who attend charter school are the ones who are the most disaffected by their public schools, and who are no where close to being skimmed as the cream of the crop, which many like to claim. One member of my extended family, now closing on 30, is presently finishing nursing school, but would have never graduated HS and had that credential if it wasn’t for a cyber school she attended.

    I’m glad that the competition pushed EPSD to join into its own cyber school and wonder how that is working out. Some schools in Indiana have a combo cyber/public school mix where kids see teachers at a brick and mortar building one or two days a week and they can also get some extra-curricular activities.


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