TNDP: Gotto Supports Funding Corporate Schools, Pushes Public Ed. Cuts

by TN Press Release Center on September 21, 2012

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; September 20, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican state Rep. Jim Gotto has pushed funding cuts for state colleges, the HOPE Scholarship, and pre-K education, but he has no problem forking out millions of taxpayer dollars to an out-of-state, for-profit corporation that fails do what it promises: educate kids.

“We are not going to improve education in this state as long as politicians like Jim Gotto are diverting millions in taxpayer dollars to an out-of-state corporation co-founded by a convicted felon to stream lessons to children over the internet,” said Chip Forrester, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “Jim Gotto decided that it is more important to score political points with big money special interests than to take an interest in the needs of Tennessee’s students. Gotto voted for a scheme that lacks accountability, increases costs, and fails our students.”

In 2011 the Tennessee legislature passed HB 1030, a bill allowing virtual schools to set up shop in Tennessee, leading to the creation of the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA). The corporation that operates the Tennessee Virtual Academy is K12 Inc., a Virginia-based company co-founded in 2000 with a multi-million dollar investment from Michael Milken, a disgraced financier who pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990 and served two years in prison.

After one year in existence, the Union County School System, the headquarters county for TNVA, required an $8 million increase in funding. After compiling test scores for school systems in Tennessee, the Virtual Academy scored in the bottom 11 percent of school performance in the state. Governor Bill Haslam’s education commissioner called TNVA student test scores “unacceptable,” and state officials have called for an investigation into the Tennessee Virtual Academy and the law that created it.

“It’s time to fix Jim Gotto’s multi-million mistake that has wasted our education dollars on out-of-state, special interest schemes,” Forrester said. “In times like these, Tennesseans can’t afford politicians like Gotto who give our tax money to unaccountable corporations and gamble with the future of our children.”

Background

Andy Berke seeks state review of online education vendor K12 Inc. (A) study noted that only 27.7 percent of K12 schools reported meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010-11. About the same percentage of virtual schools reported making AYP. Nationally, some 52 percent of public schools met the standard [timesfreepress.com, 7/26/12]

HB 1030: Virtual Schools Bill. Removes the present law prohibition on the creation of a cyber-based public charter school and allows for the management or operation of a virtual charter school by a for-profit entity [HB 1030, 5/21/11]

Study raises questions about virtual schools. As an increasing number of cash-strapped states turn to virtual schools — where computers replace classmates and students learn via the Internet — a new study is raising questions about their quality and oversight [Washington Post, 10/24/11]

Report details problems with full-time virtual schools. With millions of public high school students taking at least one course online, a new report says that virtual schools are too often subject to minimal oversight and that there is no-high quality research showing that cyber education is an acceptable full-time replacement for traditional classrooms [Washington Post, 10/25/11]

Online school’s performance ‘unacceptable.’ Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is calling last year’s student performance at Union County public schools’ new, privately run Tennessee Virtual Academy “unacceptable.” “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 [timesfreepress.com, 9/4/12]

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