Over the years, I've written many posts about the shoddy corporate practices and poor student performance at schools run by K12 Inc., the for-profit, publicly traded online education corporation (Its Arizona charter school, Arizona Virtual Academy, has 4,600 students sitting behind their computers at home, if, that is, they actually take the time and effort to log in and do the work). I wrote my most recent post
about the corporations's sinking stock value a few weeks ago. And I've written a few times that Arizona's Craig Barrett sits on K12 Inc.'s Board of Directors. But this is the first time I've written about his compensation. For the fiscal year 2015, Barrett received $190,000 from the corporation. Barrett is a very, very busy man with his fingers in a whole lot of pies. You can be certain he didn't put in 40 hour weeks to earn his Board pay.
Why, you may ask, should we care about Barrett's involvement in K12 Inc.? The answer is, Barrett is a powerful voice in Arizona education, advocating for what he says are necessary reforms to improve our schools. He's not shy when it comes to talking about his connections and accomplishments. For instance, he's happy to announce that he's President and Chairman of BASIS Schools, Inc., the for-profit Education Management Organization that runs the chain of BASIS schools. But so far as I know, he never talks about his connection to the shoddy, failing K12 Inc. I've looked hard on the internet, read his op eds, listened to some of his interviews and speeches. When it comes to K12 Inc. — nothing but crickets. A man as proud of his accomplishments as Barrett should be more open about this aspect of his educational life, and more forthcoming about what he, as a board member, is doing to improve the corporate and educational culture at K12 Inc.
Craig Barrett's list of connections and accomplishments is vast. He's the retired CEO of Intel, and he's worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As I mentioned earlier, he's President and Chairman of BASIS Schools Inc. He's also a board member of Achieve, Inc., which was instrumental in creating and promoting the Common Core standards, as well as an influential member of any number of education-related organizations. He travels around the world promoting STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and he's very outspoken about what he thinks is wrong with Arizona education and what should be done to fix it. His ideas fall squarely in the privatization/"education reform" camp. During Jan Brewer's governorship, he chaired her Arizona Ready Education Council which worked to steer the state's education priorities, most of which are being carried forward by Gov. Ducey's Classrooms First Initiative Council. It's fair to say he's the most powerful unelected individual in Arizona education.
So if he sees himself a good-education advocate, especially an outspoken one who touts the successes of BASIS schools as a model for other schools, he should feel a duty to explain the way his $190,000 a year position on the K12 Inc. board is part of his commitment to improving education in Arizona and nationwide. Maybe there's more value in the corporation's online school model, which has been so regularly and roundly criticized, even from people within the "education reform" movement, than we know. Maybe he's working inside the corporation to improve its operations and education delivery system. A man as well spoken as Barrett, a man who writes as well as Barrett, a man who can command a public forum as easily as Barrett, should really make an effort to explain this questionable aspect of his educational involvement.
BASIS BOARD MEMBER Bonus News:
How much does Craig Barrett make as President and Chairman of BASIS Schools Inc.? I don't know, because it isn't a matter of public record. BASIS Schools Inc. is a for-profit Education Management Organization, so, though nearly all of its income is taxpayer money which the state gives to its charter schools, once the money that flows from the state budget to charter schools is sent upstairs and hidden behind a for-profit pay wall, it disappears from view. We don't know if Barrett and other board members are paid, and if so, how much. We have no idea how much money BASIS founders Michael and Olga Block make. We used to know back when BASIS was entirely nonprofit and the Blocks had to report their salaries on the nonprofit's publicly available 990 tax forms, but no more.
But it's interesting to see who sits on the board of BASIS Schools, Inc. Of course, there's Craig Barrett, a man whose political and educational priorities lean conservative. And there's co-founder Michael Block, who has worked as a consultant for ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization whose main mission is to create conservative legislation which can become state law across the country. Also sitting on the seven member board is Clint Bolick, whom Gov. Ducey just appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court. Bolick is currently the head of the Goldwater Institute's constitutional litigation team. Another board member, Terry Sarvas, is a member of the Goldwater Institute, and yet another, Steve Twist, is a founder of the Goldwater Institute.
BASIS's conservative credentials run wide and deep — which is fine, of course, perfectly acceptable, but well worth noting.