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Blixt/My Turn: Say ‘no’ to K12

Greenfield is selling out its educational legacy to the lowest bidder — a corporation that has established a solidly toxic reputation for profiteering, lying, manipulation, creepy ultra-right-wing politics and looting the public trust.

K12 Inc. is called “The Monsanto of Education.”

Does this seem too harsh? Only in that it may be unfair to Monsanto. K12 has spent three years openly and arrogantly preying on the most damaged, disabled and despairing Massachusetts students and their families, while it has racked up a litany of well-documented charges of lying to parents, teachers, school committees, regulators and investors.

Dig this: Illinois and Maine just passed laws preventing schools from contracting with K12 for the creation of “virtual schools;” Florida charges that K12 hired uncertified teachers. K12 has rarely operated a program that has not been poisoned, fatally or otherwise, by its distortions.

Almost nobody, frankly, wants to deal with K12 Inc. anymore. Almost nobody, it seems, but Greenfield.

Nobody but Greenfield, where school officials have cozied up to K12 since the town’s first flirtation with virtual anything; Nobody but Greenfield, which — on June 25 — is likely to get approval for its Commonwealth Virtual Charter School, to be operated by K12.

Should you decide to speak out against this, here are some breathtaking things to consider:

∎ K12 was founded and financed by Michael Milken, the “junk bond king” who was indicted for racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 in an insider trading investigation, and who served two years of a six-year federal prison sentence — before founding K12.

∎ Another K12 founder, former U.S. Education Secretary and right-wing radio host William Bennett, had to step down as K12 chairman after he saying “if you wanted to reduce crime ... you could abort every black baby in the country and your crime rate would go down.”

∎ Both The New York Times and The Washington Post launched major investigations of K12 showing that it squeezes profits from public-school funding by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

∎ The Times reported that company profits pay for advertising and lobbying state officials. K12 spent $26.5 million on advertising in 2010. By 2012, the company and its employees contributed nearly had increased to nearly $900,000, largely in states where K12 has won lucrative contracts.

∎ Western Michigan University and the National Education Policy Center showed that only a third of K12’s schools achieved adequate yearly progress, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.

K12 Inc. has faced lawsuits from investors and others for having misrepresented the company’s academic and economic performance standards. Some of those allegations have been withdrawn only following a sizable settlement payment by K12.

Need more talking points? Dig this, too:

They love K12: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has an education agenda that likes privatization, doesn’t like labor unions, climate science or evolution and it tries to spread that agenda nationwide. ALEC is financed by, among others, Charles and David Koch. K12 Inc. execs co-chaired the committee that created the ALEC education agenda, and K12 has been accused of letting this anti-science, and pro-religious agenda work its way into public school curricula.

They don’t: Among those who have publicly and dramatically opposed K12, Inc. are Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities, educational historian Diane Ravitch and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman.

And what about the newly appointed board of trustees for Commonwealth Virtual Charter School? They are good people, willing to undertake a hard job. They also appear to know nothing about K12 or its record.

Please flood the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester with call at 781-338-3100, boe@doe.mass.edu. Luis Rodriguez in the DESE’s Office of Digital Learning at 781-338-3247, odl@doe.mass.edu.

You will be told that the public comment period is over. You can respectfully suggest that the public will determine when the public comment is over. And you can suggest that it is time to put K12 Inc. out of our schools, out of Greenfield, out of Massachusetts, and out of business.

Wesley Blixt, a longtime reporter and teacher, is a candidate for Greenfield School Committee.

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