Tennessee Representative Joe Pitts
Nashville, TN – Just a few short years ago the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that would allow for-profit companies to create and operate virtual public schools. These schools would have a state-wide reach and offer all classes on-line.
Immediately upon passage of the law, the company K12, Inc. contracted with the Union County Tennessee School District to set up the juggernaut now known as the Tennessee Virtual Academy, serving students in kindergarten through 7th grade.
Since its founding as a public virtual school, the Tennessee Virtual Academy has failed its students and the families who depend on our public education system to provide a good education for all students.For the past three years the Tennessee Virtual Academy has scored a “one” on a ranking where one is the worst performing, and five represents a top performing public school.
The academy has performed so miserably that the Tennessee Department of Education put them on notice in 2014 that they were to enroll no more students and unless they dramatically increased their ranking to a “3”, they are subject to closure by the Department.
Now, to add insult to injury, K12, Inc., a for-profit company based in Virginia, has organized parents and students to plead for the life of this failing school. Let me be clear, the teachers are not failing and the parents of the students are not failing, it is the structure and profit-taking by this company that is failing. In recent financial news articles, the ownership has pressured management to put more emphasis on increasing enrollment in this failing franchise in order to boost profits.
Furthermore, there are now some who want to allow for-profit companies to operate charter schools in our state. Not a good idea.
According to information by the Department of Education, if you combined the scores from their three years in business, the Tennessee Virtual Academy is the “worst” school in the state. Now K12, Inc. wants to use political pressure and muscle to force the Department of Education to grant them a reprieve. Worse still they are duping students and families into selling the message. They recently had a “day on the hill” in Nashville.
The Tennessee Department of Education has made the goal quite clear to the Tennessee Virtual Academy. If your school scores a 3 on the ranking system, you gain another year. Anything short of that mark means you close and leave families and students scrambling to make other arrangements.
The citizens of our great state deserve a better return on our investment than has been shown in this failed experiment. K12, Inc. is wasting precious state tax dollars and giving students nothing in return. It is time for them to go and for these students to get a real public school education.