Connections Education

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.

A Maine Sunday Telegram investigation found large portions of Maine’s digital education agenda are being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to capitalize on the changes, especially the nation’s two largest online education providers.

K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., and Connections Education, the Baltimore-based subsidiary of education publishing giant Pearson, are both seeking to expand online offerings and to open full-time virtual charter schools in Maine, with taxpayers paying the tuition for the students who use the services.

At stake is the future of thousands of Maine schoolchildren who would enroll in the full-time virtual schools and, if the companies had their way, the future of tens of thousands more who would be legally required to take online courses at their public high schools in order to receive their diplomas.

The two companies have at times acted directly, spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers in Augusta and nurturing the creation of the supposedly independent boards for the proposed virtual schools they would operate and largely control.
To read this report in its entirety, please click here

EnergySolutions and Connections Education are 27th and 28th Corporations to Leave ALEC

Two more corporations have publicly left the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): EnergySolutions, a nuclear services company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Connections Education, LLC, a private school entity based in Baltimore, Maryland, that contracts with charter schools, school districts, or governmental entities to provide “online” lessons to students. This brings the total to 28 corporations and four non-profits — 32 total private sector members — that have cut ties to the right-wing corporate bill mill.

EnergySolutions is a $1.8 billion company whose business includes, in its words, “decommissioning and remediation of nuclear sites and facilities, management of spent nuclear fuel, the transportation of nuclear material and the environmental cleanup of nuclear legacy sites.”

EnergySolutions was a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force in 2011. Bills approved by this task force work to undermine environmental protections, limit the ability of local government to manage land use, protect corporate polluters, and streamline the siting of nuclear power plants.  EnergySolution’s former vice president of legislative and community affairs, Bette Arial, represented the company on the ALEC task force. Arial left EnergySolutions last May to become a fundraiser for the Sutherland Institute, a Utah “think tank” belonging to the State Policy Network, which is also an ALEC member.  EnergySolutions has apparently decided its relationship with ALEC is not worth the controversy on the eve of ALEC’s annual meeting in Salt Lake.

Connections Education, LLC is a subsidiary of the largest education company and largest book publisher in the world — $5.8 billion GBP London-based Pearson Education, as of November 2011.

Connections operates “virtual” K-12 schools.  Until as recently as May, Connections Academy’s co-founder and senior vice president of state relations, Mickey Revenaugh, was the “private sector” co-chair of ALEC’s Education Task Force, as she had been since at least 2008.  During its tenure with ALEC, Connections Education participated in the development of ALEC’sVirtual Public Schools Act,” its “Next Generation Charter Schools Act,” and the “Longitudinal Student Growth Act,” among other ALEC bills.

To read more about these latest ALEC insurgents, please click here