WASTE WATCH: More Concerns on Virtual Academy--Mikayla Lewis
Updated: Friday, February 14 2014, 11:54 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Fox 17 brought you the story of how some state lawmakers are concerned about the Tennessee Virtual Academy wasting taxpayer dollars. Tonight, it is not just about the below-average scores the online school's students are getting on standardized tests, but who is profiting.
Tennessee Virtual Academy is run by K12 Inc. which is backed by a variety of investment groups. The education company says it is working to improve students' standardized test scores.
Mount Juliet mother, Krys Midgett says she loved TNVA. She watched her son, Robby complete 7th and 8th grade in TNVA. The online school only offers grades K-9, so she had to send her son to a regular public high school.
Krys Midgett said, "I liked the website. You can see exactly what questions he's missed. It's not like you have to wait the next nine weeks to see what the grades are. So parents are extremely involved, because K12 requires they be involved."
Tennesse Virtual Academy is operated through Union County School District. The county pays K12 for materials and services. Last year, TNVA received more than $12 million dollars through the Basic Education Program.
Rep.Michael Stewart said, " An organization that does nothing more than turn on a website. Why should we be paying such an enormous amount of money for such a limited service."
State representative Michael Stewart backed legislation last year to close the school. The school is still open to all Tennessee families and K12 Inc. remains open in the stock market. K12 is supported by numerous investors, but one stands out to Stewart.
Rep. Stewart said, "Michael Milken...who is a convicted felon."
Milken is known as the junk-bond king of the 1980's. He is rumored to be the partial inspiration of Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko in the movie "Wallstreet." Michael Milken did serve time in prison for securities fraud, but is also known as a philanthropist.
Jeff Kwitowski, K12 spokesperson said, " Mike Milken did not found K12. He was never employed by K12. He never sat on the board of directors. "
Milken and other initial K12 investors rake in millions each year.
Rep.Stewart said, " It's a very bad service and they overcharge for it. It's unfortunate we chose to take that deal, but we need to get out of it."
The Tennessee Virtual Academy's per-pupil expenditure is more than $7,000. Kwitowski says TNVA does not receive the full amount, and K12 covers the difference.
"So that it doesn't have to cut services, teachers or other potential programs. It's a non-profit school, one of the lowest funded schools in the state. It's an option for students and a choice for parents," explained Kwitowski.
Tennessee Virtual Academy also serves special education and low-income students, but it does not receive Title 1 funding like regular public schools. TNVA is only in its third year, but K12 has been around for more than a decade. K12 Inc. is a vendor for virtual schools in more than half the states of the country.
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