Sunday, September 2, 2012

Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram:


Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine

Documents expose the flow of money and influence from corporations that stand to profit from state leaders' efforts to expand and deregulate digital education.

Stephen Bowen was excited and relieved.
click image to enlarge
Celestial McBride, left, 14, and her brother Sevan, 12, work on their online classes from the Florida Virtual School at their home in Mims, Fla.
2011 AP file photo

RELATED HEADLINES


Maine’s education commissioner had just returned to his Augusta office last October after a three-day trip to San Francisco where he attended a summit of conservative education reformers convened by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which had paid for the trip.
He’d heard presentations on the merits of full-time virtual public schools – ones without classrooms, playgrounds or in-person teachers – and watched as Bush unveile

• KEY FINDINGS
PULLING THE STRINGS: Maine's digital education agenda is being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to profit on the changes.
FLORIDA CONNECTION: The LePage administration has relied heavily on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, a conservative think tank, in writing policies to create taxpayer-funded virtual schools in Maine.
FOLLOW THE MONEY: This foundation and its top officials receive funding from online education companies, which will profit if the initiatives go forward.
REMOTE CONTROL: The foundation wrote much of the language in Gov. Paul LePage's Feb. 1 executive order on digital learning, which embraces foundation policies.
BACKSTAGE MEETINGS: The secretive American Legislative Exchange Council -- a corporate-backed political group for state legislators -- developed digital learning legislation that was introduced by Maine lawmakers. Stephen Bowen (pictured) was a private-sector member until he was appointed education commissioner in Maine.
FAILING GRADES: Virtual schools have no classrooms, little or no in-person teaching and a poor track record compared to public schools. (Sidebar, A5)
CRITICS REACT: National education leaders say democratic governance is being superseded by corporate control.
• BACKGROUND DOCUMENTS
Comparison of Gov. LePage's executive order on digital learning and the
draft order provided by the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Digital Learning Now! agenda (adopted by LePage administration)
American Legislative Exchange documents leaked to Common Cause showing Stephen Bowen's membership and attendance at ALEC meetings.
Emails between Stephen Bowen and Patricia Levesque, executive director of Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Patricia Levesque's compensation (from Foundation for Excellence in Education's 2010 IRS filing)
• ADDITIONAL READING

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