The Virtual Charter Game “For the Children”™

einstein math

I don’t have to tell you that I’m not a fan of K-12 Inc. or TNSCORE and Bill Frist and Jamie Woodson and their sweetheart deal to create the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TVA). However, as a taxpayer I am all for going from spending over $9,100 per student on average to spending $5,300 so long as folks expect their neighbors to pay for their children’s “free” education at the threat of tax liens on their homes.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press has (yet another) story in the ongoing demagoguery of Tennessee Virtual Academy that has been going on now for almost a year. It started before their first academic year was even complete by NEA/TEA water carrier Sen. Andy Berke. This is the PUBLIC charter school strategy. It happens all over the country. When no one can take the status quo monopoly any longer, you finally relent and actually allow an alternative to the public school monopoly in the form of charter schools (public or private). You only allow certain students to even try this – usually inner city and/or poor students (sometimes academically as well as financially). Even then, a “lottery” is usually imposed to limit the amount of escapees, because every warm body means federal sugar daddy money. These are the kids the public system constantly use as human shields when begging for more money or demonizing any competition to their taxpayer funded monopoly because “they get to pick and choose their students”, yet they are the very first kicked to the curb of charter attendance, because who better to pay for the academic sins of the public brick-and-mortar system than the public charter system? The public charters are economically disadvantaged, because although your taxes didn’t go down one red cent, the amount of money the public charters get is typically 40% less than the other public schools. That is, you only allow the worst of the worst academically to attend the new charters, give them about one year (or less in the case of NEA/TEA bought and paid for water carrier Andy Berke) to miraculously turn around the students and then quickly declare utter and complete failure of the competition. In Tennessee’s case, Union County was the patsy because of their financial difficulties.

So the new move is to limit charter enrollment for both TVA and for any new charters. This is part of the typical scheme that is played out over and over across the nation when it comes to charter schools. Of course you have to ask, why would there be any new charters forming since this one is obviously performing so poorly academically, right?

“Haslam’s bill caps student enrollment at the Tennessee Virtual Academy at 5,000. The school accepts students from across the state and now has 3,200 K-8 students after an initial enrollment of 1,800 in the 2011-12 academic year.”

Think about that for a minute. No one forces parents to choose to withdraw their child from the brick-and-mortar public school and enroll them in the virtual charter public school. They do this voluntarily. These are parents that are at the very least attempting to do something about their child’s education. They wanted a change for some reason. Apparently the “poor academics” we are to believe here are not enough to prevent a 78% increase in enrollment. If it’s really that bad, they can just go back to their other “free” public school. Why is everyone except the actual parents of the students so upset about this? No one is forcing enrollment in the charters. The state is now wanting to force students to stay out. “For the Children”™ of course.

“The school narrowly averted falling into the lowest 10 percent of schools on student performance.”

Oh really? So, what are the new rules for the public schools that actually ARE in the lowest 10%? Maybe we should consider limiting enrollment in those schools too since they are even worse. Why are we paying an average of over $9100 per student for those bottom 10% public brick-and-mortar schools when the public virtual charter is operating with MUCH less ($5302)? What “extra value” are we getting for the additional $4000 per student?

“Ninety-two percent of that goes to K12 Inc.”

And the other 8% disappears…to Union County who isn’t teaching these kids?

“Only 16.4 percent of students score as proficient or advance on state tests. Students did better in reading with 39.3 percent of them rated proficient or better.”

That first score is on 3rd-8th Grade Math. The second is on 3rd-8th grade Reading & Language. Well, let’s play who has the highest “F”. Union County as a system (which includes TVA) scored 21.3 and 37.2 on these measures. TVA actually pulled up their score in Reading & Language – you might even accurately say they are “above average”. Let’s visit the other end of the economic spectrum, Memphis, where we spent $11,250 per student: 27.6 in Math and 29.2 in Reading & Language. What “extra value” are we getting for the additional $6000 per student? Is it not yet apparent that maybe, just maybe, money isn’t the only answer?

As is the case with every single one of these stories declaring the “poor academics” of the public virtual charter students, the performance of the TVA students BEFORE they left the brick-and-mortar public system for the virtual public system IS NEVER REPORTED. And it never will be. Why?

You can’t even claim these students didn’t actually improve without that information. It might show they have done better, worse or stayed the same. It might reveal how horrible the system they left prepared them before entering the charter school. It is the only scientific way to compare the progress of this new school, because the enrollment group has already been tampered with. Otherwise, year one needs to become a baseline and then you could track progress or lack thereof beginning in year two. But, that is not of interest.

For the first time this information is revealed about the TVA students: “Sixty-five percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunch programs, an indicator of poverty that educators say can impact students’ readiness to learn. Another 8 percent are special education students. About half had not previously attended a public school, and many of those are home schooled, he said.”

I thought the evil public charters got to “pick and choose” their students. I guess maybe not with a special education population at 8% and all those “unsocialized” former homeschoolers. We are well aware thanks to the public system unions and their water carriers how “poorly prepared” those students are (and their “unqualified” parents). Surely they can’t expect TVA to bear such a burden and produce those miraculous academic results in year one on half the money can we? Couldn’t they just go on a perpetual “needs improvement level 1-2-3” list and ask for more money like their brick-and-mortar public school counterparts do?

Since TVA is apparently so bad and wrecking their student’s academics in one year, we should expect a stampede of those involved parents who chose to use TVA to just as quickly choose to go back and improve their child’s education in the public brick-and-mortar or home school they left, shouldn’t we?

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