Surprising Split in School Reformer Monolith

Oct 29, 2013 by

By Jay Mathews –

Critics of current trends in education reform, such as historian Diane Ravitch, often complain that they are up against a phalanx of business executives and rich investors more interested in making money than improving schools. These people, the critics say, march in lock step to replace our traditional public schools with charters, vouchers and online campuses so they can squeeze profits out of taxpayer dollars.

That sense of unity among the corporate types has been shattered in the past few weeks by a bitter quarrel between two of the reform movement’s most prominent leaders. One is hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, one of the original founders of Teach for America and Democrats for Education Reform and a long-time board member of the KIPP charter school network in New York City. The other is Jeanne Allen, founder and president of the Washington-based Center for Education Reform since 1993 and a former candidate for the Maryland General Assembly.

Their clash has been over K12 Inc., the nation’s largest private operator of public schools, which runs 54 taxpayer-financed online schools in 33 states and the District. Tilson started the fight with a presentation last month to the Value Investing Congress, in which he said, “K12’s aggressive student recruitment has led to dismal academic results by students and sky-high dropout rates, in some cases more than
50 percent annually.”

He said he was so disgusted that he was shorting the company’s stock — betting that its value would go down, when most of his investments are in companies he thinks will prosper.

K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said that Tilson has since talked to company executives and declared he no longer believes K12 is deliberately enrolling kids it knows will fail.

via Surprising split in school reformer monolith – The Washington Post.

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