Nebraska’s Great Public Schools
When you get to feeling bad about awful school reform, it’s nice to reflect on Nebraska. It has been a shiny, organic apple. But now it has a worm in it when it comes to online instruction.
The state has been mostly immune to draconian reform. Probably this is largely due to the past leadership of Doug Christensen.
Christensen used to be the state education commissioner, and he was a hero to educators and parents around the country. He fought high-stakes standardized testing in the era of No Child Left Behind. He advocated local control of measuring student progress.
Today, Nebraska is seen as a rebel state. They don’t have charter schools and they have not adopted Common Core State Standards.
Yet, without such expensive reforms, Nebraska has some of the highest test scores in the nation!
Recently, Diane Ravitch lavished well-deserved praise on the state with this upbeat video.
Sneaking in School Reform
But when a state creates immunity to school reform, you can bet those who want to privatize schools will be chomping (champing) at the bit to get in and make their changes.
Many Nebraskans recently had to push back charter schools trying to enter the state.
Also, Nebraska, along with 40 other states, participates in the suspicious P-16 Initiative through the University of Nebraska. It lists partnership links to groups that are pro-privatization that condemn public schools, i.e. Education Trust, Achieve, Inc (behind Common Core), and Drop Out Factories, to name a few.
The P-16 website highlights a 2008 quote from Phi Delta Kappan:
Over the past decade, a wave of education reform has swept the nation. Yet the general public remains largely unaware of it, even though the reforms are arguably among the most successful public policy initiatives of the past quarter-century and have the potential to yield benefits for years to come.
Why praise reform when the state’s education system has been successful? And who among us believe those school reforms have been good?
But what’s especially troubling is Omaha, Nebraska’s new subscription to K-12 International. K-12 Inc. I guess it is international now, because people around the world don’t know that it doesn’t work.
Nor, it seems, does Omaha!
This is the online program known for its failure, and yet it keeps profit-making by bilking school districts and states needed funds.
Omaha is using K-12 for its homeschoolers now. Using public dollars for homeschooling is controversial. But if the school district is going to fund programs for homeschooling, why don’t they use proven programs?
K-12 Inc. was started by a group of individuals who were keen on school privatization. One of those individuals was William Bennett who was education secretary under President Reagan.
Bennett never liked public schools. Isn’t it amazing that we could have an education secretary with no education experience who didn’t like public schools?
It’s perplexing that Omaha officials know this program has problems, but they signed on to K-12 Inc. anyway. Here is how the paper reported it:
According to the California Attorney General’s Office, the company [K-12] admitted no wrongdoing but recently agreed to pay $8.5 million as part of a settlement with the State of California, and forgive debt owed by the charters that it manages. The state alleged K12 and the affiliated California Virtual Academy — recently the subject of a lengthy series in the San Jose Mercury News — ran a network of nonprofit online charter schools that engaged in misleading advertisements and inflated attendance numbers to gain more state funding.
One wonders with such an outstanding school system in the state, why Omaha and other school districts didn’t create their own virtual education program. Why didn’t they enlist real teachers who understand children, their development, and who are savvy and well-prepared in computer education? They seem to be already doing this with high school classes and the University of Nebraska.
Instead, the worm got into the apple.
I end my book with a chapter about how online instruction is the end game of school privatization. I write more about the history of K12 here if interested.