Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ohio Virtual Academy Fudging Attendance to get Paid?

An Associated Press story last night about the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) -- the nation's second-largest for-profit school -- has been picked up nationally. Apparently a whistleblower at the school has released information showing that OHVA has been paid for nearly 400 students that simply weren't logging on to their computers.

The matter has been referred to state authorities.

This is not a new occurrence in Ohio's E-Schools. Ohio's first E-School, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) --now the country's largest for-profit school -- was fined $1.7 million by State Auditor Jim Petro in 2001 after it couldn't account for all the kids it claimed to be educating.

OHVA is run by the notorious K-12, Inc. -- the nation's largest operator of E-Schools, with schools in 33 states. However, OHVA is K-12's biggest cash cow, accounting for at least 10% of its total revenue, according to the company's SEC filings. The company recently lost its operating contract with its other cash cow -- Pennsylvania's Agora online school. So its dependence upon OHVA's cash has only increased.

As the company noted in its SEC filing last year (emphasis added),
“[I]f our contracts with either of these virtual public schools (OHVA and Agora in Pennsylvania) are terminated, the charters to operate either of these schools are not renewed or are revoked, enrollments decline substantially, funding is reduced, or more restrictive legislation is enacted, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.”

I have a hunch this isn't the last we'll hear about OHVA. The state's E-School sector is a disaster academically and financially. This is a perfect time to start talking about its role and why the state needs to be sending about $250 million a year to these schools.