Why Is Jeb Bush So Cozy With A Discredited Charter School Mill?

Aug 1, 2015 by


Jeb Bush, who often touts his education policy expertise as a job qualification, has long backed a charter school company with an appalling record

By Ari Rabin-Havt –

At the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Jeb Bush posed the following question:
Everywhere in our lives, we get the chance to choose.
Go down any supermarket aisle – you’ll find an incredible selection of milk. You can get whole milk, 2% milk, low-fat milk or skim milk. Organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D. There’s flavored mil—chocolate, strawberry or vanilla—and it doesn’t even taste like milk. They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.
Shouldn’t parents have that kind of choice in schools?
In his time since leaving the Florida Governor mansion, Mr. Bush’s nonprofit, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, pushed public policies that offer the educational equivalent of spoiled milk. These policies also happened to benefit one of his foundation’s donors, Herndon, Virginia based K12 Inc., a pedagogically controversial virtual charter school management company.
Founded in 2000, the for-profit company on the New York Stock Exchange operates virtual public charter schools that enroll more than 130,000 students around the United States. The company has contributed between $85,000-$175,000 to Mr. Bush’s foundation since 2011.
For Jeb Bush, expanding virtual learning has been a core part of his education philosophy. In 2010, along with former Democratic West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, he chaired a “Digital Learning Council,” which ultimately released “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning, a comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”
The document proclaims, “states must advance bold reforms to make systemic changes in education to extend this option to all students.”
Prominent education historian Diane Ravitch told the Observer, “Part of it is [Bush] likes any alternative to public schools. And he has promoted charters and vouchers and virtual charters.”
The debate surrounding education reform aside, K12 Incorporated has a sketchy record. The company has been entrusted with hundreds of millions in public education dollars, but it has left in its wake a litany of scandals, lawsuits, and pedagogical failures.
“K12 has a record of spending a lot of public money on marketing and recruitment, but they have terrible results,” said Ms. Ravitch.
Whitney Tilson, managing partner of Kase Capital Management, a hedge fund, echoed this view. Unlike Ms. Ravitch, Mr. Tilson is an advocate of charter schools. He sits on the board of groups, including Democrats for Education Reform and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
At the 2013 Value Investing Congress he laid out his case against K12 in a 133-page presentation in which he stated that he had “not found a single K12 school that is free of scandal and posting even decent (much less good) academic results.” At the time K12 was Mr. Tilson’s “largest short position;” he does not currently have any position on the company’s stock.

Source: Why Is Jeb Bush So Cozy With A Discredited Charter School Mill? | Observer

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