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Pay to Play VA: Virtual Schools edition


Crossposted at ProgressVA.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post took a hard look at the virtual school company K12 Inc., which is based in Virginia. Popular with conservatives, their controversial virtual classrooms allow students to take lessons at home without physically going to a school. The firm is controversial because their students don’t perform as well as those enrolled in public schools even though the company receives the same amount from the state, per pupil, as brick and mortar schools.

While the entire article is worth reading, near the end the piece shares how the politically savvy company got things done in Virginia: they gave a lot of money to Bob McDonnell. The Post reports, “McDonnell has received $55,000 in campaign contributions from K12 or its executives since 2009, including a $15,000 payment to his political action committee this month.” For that he, “successfully promoted legislation to authorize full-time virtual schools in 2010. K12 was the only private company present during talks to craft that legislation.” That legislation is based off templates written by the conservative, corporate-front group ALEC. A full list of K12’s campaign contributions can be found here on VPAP.org.

The article also reveals how K12 purposefully gamed the Virginia system to increase their bottom line. K12 partnered with Carroll County schools, which receive $5,421 per student in state aid, as opposed to Fairfax which receives $2,716 per student. Any student in Virginia that enrolls in a K12 program must do so through Carroll County schools. As a result, K12 receives $5,421 per student from the state no matter where in Virginia the student resides. State Senator George Barker has twice attempted to fix this problem but has been shot down by McDonnell both times.

So here’s the bottom line: a for profit corporation is bilking Virginia taxpayers by gaming the school system and buying friends like Bob McDonnell. All of this is happening while McDonnell prepares to slash the budget for all of Virginia’s traditional schools.

Well, that’s just how you pay to play in VA…


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