GOP Kills Stewart's Attempt to Ban Money-Making Virtual Schools

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Rep. Mike Stewart made an impassioned appeal today for Tennessee to ban for-profit Internet public schools, but Republicans on the House Education subcommittee killed his bill. Instead, the subcommittee adopted Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to give the state education commissioner the authority to close failing virtual schools. The governor’s bill was stronger when it was introduced. But bowing apparently to Republicans who see online schools as a key part of their program to privatize public education, he dropped an earlier proposal to cap enrollments at schools now operating.

Stewart, an East Nashville Democrat, cited the Tennessee Virtual Academy as Exhibit A in his case against online schools, accusing the owner, K12 Inc., of fixing grades. In its first year, K12 Inc.’s online school narrowly averted scoring in the lowest 10 percent of student achievement in the state. Said Stewart:

In Tennessee and elsewhere, virtual schools run by for-profit companies have been an extremely bad deal for schoolchildren. They’ve been notoriously and consistently ineffective as a tool for education, and they’ve been an even worse deal perhaps for taxpayers, consistently overcharging the state for services that cost K12 Inc. very little and leading to enormous profits on the part of K12 Inc. … The only people who benefit from our current for-profit virtual school statute is K12 Inc., a Virginia corporation which is using the statute to siphon off millions of dollars every year.

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