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Kevin Chavous: Knight in Shining School Choice Armor to For-Profit K12 Inc.?

November 3, 2017

On October 26, 2017, BusinessWire announced that Chavous– who was already a board member for the for-profit, online education company, K12, Inc.– would now become the company’s “president of academics, policy, and schools.”

K12, Inc., sells online education of questionable quality, and it secretly lobbies to do so.

Even so, K12 profits aren’t what they used to be.

In December 2016, K12 shareholders filed a resolution requesting transparency regarding K12’s secretive lobbying activities, particularly singling out K12 money paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). K12 shareholders noted that ALEC promoted model legislation favoring education for-profits like K12 even as K12’s “performance has not fallen in line with our stated mission.”

From the December 2016 K12 stockholder resolution:

We believe in full disclosure of our company’s lobbying activities and expenditures to assess whether our lobbying is in the best interests of shareholders and our stated mission “to put students first and maximize their potential to learn and achieve.”

Since 2004, K12 has spent nearly 2 million dollars on state lobbying, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, yet over that same period, K12 stock has fallen approximately 45 percent, nearly 65 percent over the last 5 years, and 15 percent over the last year. K12 is also involved in the highly controversial American Exchange Legislative Council (ALEC), but does not disclose or explain to investors its contributions to ALEC or other lobbying groups. In 2013, ALEC put forth at least 139 bills for the benefit of K12, 31 of which were written into law to promote private, for-profit education models.

But prior to and subsequent to ALEC’s model legislation campaign, K12’s performance has not fallen in line with our stated mission. Bloomberg reports a 2013 National Education Policy Center study found only 27 percent of K12’s online schools met Adequate Yearly Progress standards from 2010 to 2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools. And a 2016 Mercury News investigation into California Virtual Academies found fewer than half of the students
graduate, less than half were proficient in reading, only a third were proficient in math, and almost none were qualified to attend the state’s public universities. Mercury News also reported inflated attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding, and charges in excess of what the schools can afford, leading lawmakers to launch a state probe.

It appears that K12 has yet to follow through on the wishes of shareholders regarding an annual report on K12’s lobbying activities.

In January 2017, Chavous joined K12’s board of directors.

On February 07, 2017, ALEC supporter Betsy DeVos became US secretary of education, and, according to MarketWatch, K12 stock “rallied”:

Shares of K12 Inc. LRN… rallied 1% in afternoon trade Tuesday, after Vice President Pence broke a tie to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education. “While somewhat of a controversial choice, we believe this appointment will be positive for the private sector (for-profit) education sector, specifically in the K-12 segment where Ms. Devos has been a strong proponent of school reform, particularly charter schools,” Analyst Jeffrey Silber at BMO Capital Markets wrote in a note to clients. “This could be a positive for K12 Inc., which helps to manage virtual charter schools.” K12’s stock has lost 8.1% since closing at a 2 1/2-year high of $20.19 on Jan. 30, but was still up 66% since the election.

As it turns out, K12 stock dipped from that January 30th high of $20.19 and hit its highest point to date in 2017 on May 11, 2017 ($20.91), which happened to be right around the time of talks about Trump’s upcoming release of his proposed budget. Since that time, K12 stock has fallen to its lowest in 2017, at $16.08 per share.

K12 stock peaked in April 2011 at $39.37 per share; in August 2013, K12 stock was at its second highest, at $36.78 per share. However, those high points were short-lived.

K12, Inc., profitability is not stellar, especially if one considers K12 stock over the last 10 years:

K12 stock 10 yrs

In making Chavous “President of Academics, Policy, and Schools,” it seems that K12 is hoping to turn its profitability around. After all, Chavous is a school choice champion.

From the October 26, 2017, K12 press release on Chavous’ promotion:

HERNDON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Oct. 26, 2017– K12 Inc., a technology-based education company and leading provider of proprietary curriculum and online school programs for students in pre-K through high school, is pleased to announce that national education reform advocate Kevin P. Chavous has been named the company’s President of Academics, Policy, and Schools.

“Kevin’s wealth of expertise over the past twenty years as a trusted leader, inspiring speaker, and passionate advocate for students will prove a valuable asset as we accelerate innovation across our organization,” said K12 Inc. CEO Stuart Udell. “Kevin’s successful track record advancing educational opportunity for children of all backgrounds supports the K12 mission to transform learning for every student we serve.”

Chavous is a noted education reform leader and innovator with a well-chronicled track record of empowering families with education choice, and driving change and opportunity for children of all backgrounds and circumstances. He has worked to advance quality education programs around the nation, most notably as the Education Committee Chair of the Council of the District of Columbia, where he helped shape highly-innovative educational models in our nation’s capital, and as the founding Board President of Washington Latin Public Charter School in the District of Columbia.

“Personalized learning and technology will be the driving force in the future of education,” said Chavous. “I’m excited to join K12’s leadership team at this critical time in history. Increasing numbers of parents and families nationwide are demanding the online and blended learning solutions K12 has provided for nearly twenty years.”

“K12 is the right place for me to continue my life’s work to expand opportunities for all kids,” Chavous added. “We have a tremendous opportunity to improve academic outcomes and expand educational choice for families. I’m excited to get back in the trenches and to work together with K12’s team of educators to make a difference in children’s lives.”

A fearless leader, Chavous has always placed children at the center, and was one of the first to work across the aisle as both the founder of Democrats for Education Reform and as a founding board member of the American Federation for Children. He has also been instrumental in advancing charter school and education choice programs around the country.

K12 did not hire Chavous to put children at the center of its operations. K12 hired Chavous in hopes that Chavous’ school choice history and connections might bolster its suffering profits.

I have more to write about Chavous and the school choice organizations with which he is associated. However, for the sake of length, I will save it for another post.

knight in shining armor


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Betsy Devos, Charters

  1. Edd Doerr permalink

    Years ago I tangled with Chavous over vouchers. He made little sense and essentially came off as a jerk who did not care what happened to other African Americans like himself.

  2. I am a DC native and retired DCPS teacher and former DCPS parent. My recollection was that Chavous’ advocacy of charters and all that stuff was not well received by the DC electorate, so he lost his DC City Council position, but scored ig with the billionaires promoting that stuff.

    • Edd Doerr permalink

      We might also note that in 1981 DC voters voted an astonishing 89% to 11% to defeat a school voucher plan on the ballot.

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