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Front-Page Assault on Virtual Learning Won't Go Unnoticed

December 2, 2011

Important Memo to Friends
RE: New York Times, front-page assault on Virtual Learning, this Sunday

Dear Friends,

An article by Pulitzer Prize winning author Stephanie Saul, intended to look like an exposé on the company K12, but in reality a veiled attempt to discredit virtual learning modalities will appear in this Sunday’s New York Times. According to colleagues at K12 and other groups with whom the reporter has talked, this article relies heavily on disgruntled former employees, antagonistic legislators and union leaders to paint a picture of a movement that has permitted corporate entities to bilk taxpayers for sub-par education.

Make no mistake — this article is an assault on ALL choice efforts, and the very public company, K12, is a convenient vehicle. This is similar to earlier assaults on private companies, such as Education Alternatives and Edison, and is like so many negative assaults almost weekly on other charter schools and their supporters.

The timing is designed to thwart many current legislative efforts aimed at raising caps, changing authorizers and expanding choices. From New Jersey to Michigan to California, critical bills are pending that, upon approval, would create more opportunities for children. As we all know, even the most stalwart legislator becomes guarded, or withdraws altogether, if there is even the slightest potential for criticism or opposition to a cause they are championing.

I have watched with increasing concern over the last several months as the opposition has rebuilt its defenses after having experienced a bruising couple of years of high-profile criticism and critiques. The unions and their allies have begun again to wage and win battles where reform victories had once been all but assured. I have watched as supporters and advocates have begun to respond defensively, seeing merit in many baseless arguments, taking sides in the choice debate (non-profit vs. for-profit, online vs. brick and mortar). Friendly legislators are becoming skeptical, fear negative press and are likely to feel under assault for their efforts to allow “less-regulated” education programs to come to be.

For our part, as leaders in the movement and guardians of issue accuracy, an article like this that attempts to draw conclusions in a few columns about public policy improvements that have taken years to forge and are a lifeline for US students can be devastating.

Building awareness of this and other pending media reports is the first step to ensure the proliferation of diverse, quality learning options for children.

I would also encourage anyone receiving this note to consider writing letters to their local paper, going on The New York Times online to comment when the article hits and letting everyone from your Governor to your state lawmakers know that you believe digital learning opportunities are part of the solution and critical to our success in this global world.

Remind whomever you address that our students are barely proficient in the basics and that other countries are competitively beating us where we once excelled (specific state and district data are available on our site).

We have been in touch with our colleagues in the digital learning movement and they are similarly working to arrest any damage this upcoming media may do to the movement.

Please let us know if you have comments or ideas, and please be sure to share with us anything you do that may be of value to others.

Thank you.

Best regards,

Jeanne Allen
President