Not many Floridians know that Florida Virtual School quietly entered into a partnership with textbook and testing behemoth Pearson last year. The partnership was created to “take over sales of its courses outside of Florida.” No comes word that it’s not going so well. From Tampa Bay Times reporter, Rebecca Catalanano:
The agreement with textbook giant Pearson Education Inc. was supposed to generate about $800,000 in net income in the first year alone, increasing every year to $44 million by 2015.
Now, Florida Virtual said its for-profit arm expects to break even for 2011 and lose $46,190 by June 30 as school officials scramble to renegotiate the contract with Pearson.
Cecilia Lopez, the school’s chief market development officer, told Florida Virtual’s board of trustees last week that the deal became “confusing” after Pearson announced in September it had purchased Connections Education, a Florida Virtual competitor
“Everyone was asking, ‘What’s happening? What’s going on?’ ” Lopez said. “There was very little selling that was taking place because really, nobody knew how to position and how to take us to the next step.”
What’s might be so astonishing to Florida taxpayers is the see that FVS, tasked with educating children, spends so much time on trying to make money in other states. And that its required to do so by law:
Pearson spokeswoman Kate Miller said the company is “working with FLVS to address the next phase of our relationship.” Pearson bought Connections Education, the second-biggest for-profit player in online learning for $400 million last year. Though competitors on many levels, Connections and Florida Virtual do partner to offer full-time courses.
Florida law calls for Florida Virtual — an enterprise with a $166.3 million budget and close to 1,500 employees and 130,000 students — to “aggressively seek avenues to generate revenue to support its future endeavors” such as research and development.
Well now. FVS’ success has been on Jeb Bush wish list for some time. He got a law passed that requires Florida students to take at least one online course before they graduate and has encouraged Rick Scott to sell FVS. The partnership with his client, Pearson, takes care of that. FVS CEO Julie Young, obviously feeling some heat, told FVS board of trustees, “I look forward to the day I can come back … and say, here, take some of this money back. We are obviously not there yet.”
No story about Florida education policy is complete without some palpable hypocrisy by a powerful republican legislator. Will Weatherford delivers:
State Rep. Will Weatherford, chair of the House Education Policy Council, called Florida Virtual “internationally renowned.”
“I’ve got faith in the folks at the Florida Virtual School,” said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “I support the decisions they make internally and who they decide to partner with. I don’t think that can be micromanaged at the legislative level.”
Weatherford is the gift who keeps on giving to opponents of his privatization agenda. Its hard to top his December 2009 whopper where he slammed teachers and lied to voters that Race to the Top funds would “reward good teacher” and be “real financial rewards.” They of course didn’t and RttT was never intended to. Saying that education policy cannot be “micromanaged at the legislative level,” will provide some real guffaws in state district offices all over the state this morning.