Thu September 13, 2012

K12 Inc. Online Ed Company in Spotlight Again, This Time in Florida

The country’s largest online educator, K12 Inc., is back in headlines again, this time in Florida. K12 Inc. manages Colorado Virtual Academy and schools in about 30 other states.

According to StateImpact Florida, the  state’s Department of Education has launched an investigation of K12 over allegations that the company is using uncertified teachers and asked employees to help cover up the practice. It is against the law in Florida to use teachers for student instruction who aren’t state certified.

StateImpact Florida reports:

The state investigation started in January, when a former K12 employee forwarded a series of e-mails to Seminole County schools officials. In one email, K12’s Florida project manager asked teachers to sign off on having taught students they may have never encountered.

As StateImpact Florida explains, there could be a financial incentive behind the alleged practice:

K12 has a financial incentive to skirt Florida’s law requiring the use of certified teachers. Simply, K12 can pay uncertified teachers less than certified teachers while collecting the same amount per student from state public school districts, increasing profits for shareholders.

During a quarterly conference call with investors earlier today, K12 Inc. CEO and Founder Ron Packard responded to the allegations by saying that all teachers teaching Seminole County students were Florida certified:

In our internal review, we have only identified minor mistakes in matching the appropriate grade and course certifications with specific students and courses.

Packard said that the emails in question “did not reflect teacher assignment policies, practices and controls.”

Read the transcript of Packard’s remarks here.

Many K12 Inc.-managed schools, including Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), advertise interaction with state-licensed teachers. K12 also promises personalized learning programs, which some COVA teachers told KUNC back in March were nearly impossible to deliver with their large student loads.