A glimpse at John O’Connor’s StateImpact review of 2012’s top stories reminds readers of the ongoing investigation of online education giant K12 Inc by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) for irregularities in Seminole County.
State investigating K12 — In September we told you the Florida Department of Education was investigating K12, Inc., the nation’s largest online education company.
Emails between K12 officials and teachers suggested the company had asked teachers to sign off on Seminole County students they had not taught. The emails raised questions about whether K12 was using teachers properly certified according to Florida law.
We also told you how K12 service plans include student-to-teacher rations of 275-to-1 and how school districts have found problems with a network of online charter schools tied to K12 applying around Florida.
The story broke in September, only a month after then education commissioner Gerard Robinson resigned. At the time the FDOE investigation began, no one could imagine that the next education commissioner would be former Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett. The FLDOE has been silent on the investigation, but Bennett’s appointment brings a clear conflict of interests.
The media is only beginning to realize that Bennett brings baggage with him from Indiana. Gradebook’s Jeff Solochek picked up on my look at the state board of education members who hired him and also donated to Bennett as a Indiana candidate for office. Bennett received several other contributions from education corporations who do business in Florida which he will oversee as education commissioner. One of those conflicts has arrived. K12 Inc made two $5000 to Bennett’s campaign, once in 2011 and again in 2012.
The FLDOE will have to wrap up its investigation and announce it’s findings of K12 Inc before Bennett assumes control of the department in two weeks. If not, the investigation will need to be turned over to another department. To do otherwise will bring critical scrutiny to not only Bennett, but also upon the state board and an embattled FLDOE that doesn’t need the drama.