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Former education secretary creates K-12 private school over Internet

WASHINGTON (BP)–Former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett, who served in the Reagan Administration, has begun an on-line private school for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade, according to a report in CNSNews.com.

The school is designed to target a growing market of home-educated children. Bennett’s school has already drawn criticism from the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teacher unions.

Bennett’s school, which would attempt to make a profit, is being financed with $10 million from a group of investors that includes one-time junk bond king Michael Milken. The school will offer the “back to basics” education that Bennett has long espoused, like phonics, mathematics and civics lessons.

The school aims to enroll 100,000 students by 2005. It will begin offering programs next fall for kindergarten through the second grade. The higher grades will come later.

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“This is a highly ambitious project. We’re doing the whole thing. Every lesson, every day for 13 years,” Bennett said in a statement.

The school is called “K12”. Bennett said the tuition will be less than a third of the $6,500 average per pupil expenditure at public schools and scholarships will be available. K12, according to Bennett, can save money by doing without teachers in the early grades except where required by state law, and instead stressing parental involvement.

AFT President Sandra Feldman sees several problems with the K12 approach.

“Online learning in the early grades can be a great adjunct, but it is not a substitute for a quality education delivered in person. An excellent elementary and secondary education cannot be based solely on technology. We have serious questions about whether K-12 will offer the proper in-person content and technical support. Some courses don’t work well in an online environment. Take high school chemistry as one example,” Feldman said in a statement.

Feldman continued, “This is not the first online school developed for the elementary and secondary market; others have met with great difficulty, especially in the area of content development. We will have to wait and see if the quality of this particular product is as grandiose as Mister Bennett’s quotes.”
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Burns is a senior writer for CNSNews.com. Used with permission.