Audit of online school in Washington State

by David Safier
This story isn't from around here, but I spent a whole lot of blog space writing about AZVA — Arizona Virtual Academy — and this is about Washington Virtual Academy. Both are charter schools run by K12 Inc, a large national corporation that has online (virtual) schools across the country. Most are charters, which means they're free to the students because the state pays. I exposed their habit of sending student papers to India to be graded without informing parents. Because of my investigation, K12 Inc. stopped the practice. At least they say they did, and I haven't heard any different.

It seems the Ed Supe up there in Washington state suspects there's been a bit of double dipping going on. Students who were enrolled in Washington Virtual Academy — which means they get their education online, not in a brick-and-mortar school — may have also been enrolled in the traditional schools as well, meaning the state paid for them twice.

K12 Inc. may be innocent of any wrongdoing here. It might be the school districts that screwed up. But K12 agree to take the financial hit, which could be as much as $3 million. It's a big company with over $150 million a year revenue (ten percent of which comes from Arizona tax revenue, by the way), so it can afford to pay.

I want to see some careful, line-by-line auditing of the real cost per student of online schools. K12 Inc. has a 50-to-1 student teacher ratio in its schools, yet it gets as much money per pupil from the state as any other charter school. With half as many teachers and no buildings, does it really have enough tech-related expenses to make up the difference?

0 responses to “Audit of online school in Washington State

  1. In Arizona, each student is assigned a number that is supposed to follow them wherever they go (called a SAIS number). It is supposed to prevent such double-dipping.

    And many charter schools, despite being ‘public schools’ by definition, are very much a for-profit organization. Online charter schools especially.

  2. I have as great deal of trouble accepting the idea of any public money going to a “for profit” organization, whether it be schools, social services, hospitals, national security, or prisons. The buzzwords these days are “transparancy” and “accountability”. At least, when the public provides the functions I mentioned, all of the money goes to the provision of the service, not to some corporation’s profit line, and we can hold them accountable for how it is spent. (Or we should.) Would a “for profit” organization even allow a “line-by-line” audit or would they claim that it is propriatory information?