Real-Life Horror (I mean, really)

Usually, I write about fictionalized horror, but something truly scary is life without a quality education. I was fortunate to attend a first-rate high school, but not every one is as lucky. For many, attending an online school is a new possibility, which in and of itself could be of great value.

Unfortunately, for-profit companies have hijacked onling learning and are funneling taxpayer money away from public schools  and students and into the pockets of corporate administrators many states away (in the particular case I’m referring to, from Colorado to Virginia).

For the past six months, Grace Hood of radio station KUNC has been investigating K12, a Virginia-based company that oversees online schools across the country (and is currently being sued by its own shareholders). What KUNC has uncovered is a for-profit company taking tens of millions of taxpayer dollars (funds specifically earmarked for public schools), yet is delivering a sub-par product. The graduation rate at one of their schools is 22 percent, which is four times lower than the state average.

Obviously, K12 is failing its students, but as KUNC discovered, there are also questions about how this for-profit company in Virginia is spending our Colorado tax dollars. Teachers are paid far below the state average and have student lodes higher than teachers in brick-and-mortar schools. There are $1.3 million unaccounted for, and despite numerous requests, K12 refused to say where that money went, responding only with evasive, indirect answers, blatant deception and refused to speak on the record, despite the public’s right to know where our money went.

It’s a troubling situation that short-changes students, rips off taxpayers, and the lack of transparency is disturbing.

Disclosure: Grace is my partner, so I’m somewhat biased when I say she did an amazing job of investigating and reporting on this issue. But there is nothing biased about the facts of the case. I recommend you read this article, listen to the audio and learn more about the complicated and sometimes controversial world of online learning (there is a great PBS Frontline about how schools are cheating veterans out of their GI Bill funds).

Horror film and literature is great entertainment. But misappropriated funds, exploited teachers, and, worst of all, short-changed students is truly frightening.