Today I’m in California’s capitol to speak about ITPI’s extensive research into the largest provider of online K-12 education in California known as CAVA (California Virtual Academies) and I want to share our findings with you, too. Funded by taxpayers with public education dollars, CAVA enrolls 14,497 students in kindergarten through 12th grade at 11 virtual schools. The schools are managed by a subsidiary of K12 Inc., a publicly traded education company that produced $55 million in profits last year.
Our report shows that students at CAVA are at risk of low-quality educational outcomes, and some are falling through the cracks entirely, in a poorly resourced and troubled educational environment. The numbers show lower graduation rates and higher dropout rates, as well as lower academic performance and rankings, than in traditional schools in the state with similar demographics. Teachers we interviewed reported technological problems, limited availability of textbooks, and an environment that makes it difficult for students to thrive. The books show that in 2011-2012, the average CAVA teacher salary was close to half of average teacher pay in the state while K12 Inc. paid almost $11 million total to its top six executives.
CAVA’s problems in California are not isolated incidents. K12 Inc. managed schools have a track record of poor outcomes, including struggling academic performance and low graduation rates, in multiple states including Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania. K12’s reputation and CAVA’s extensive issues add up to a case study on the need for better oversight to ensure children are receiving a quality education.
It’s too easy for kids to fall through the cracks in CAVA’s current online schooling system so we are calling on California to immediately increase oversight of online education. Despite the state having passed some of the most forward-thinking regulations around virtual learning, leaders in Sacramento must revisit what the state can do to ensure quality education for students no matter what kind of institution they are enrolled in. It is their responsibility to ensure the state is spending public education dollars efficiently and wisely.