File Under Tilting At Windmills--Virtual school operator K12 Inc. faces challenge from stockholders demanding transparency

Virginia-based K12 Inc. is the largest operator of for-profit charter schools in the country and is a national leader in running online full-time public schools in numerous states. The company, based in Herndon, has long been a target of critics who have questioned the quality of its schools as well as its spending and lobbying practices — and now, the company will face new questions, this time from stockholders.

The new shareholder effort is being led by Bertis Downs,  a public school advocate in Athens, Ga., who spent his career providing legal counsel and managing the rock group R.E.M., and who bought K12 stock a few years ago. Asked why he is taking this action, Downs said in an email:

"My motivation in filing for this disclosure of K-12’s lobbying activities stems from my overall curiosity and interest as a parent and a shareholder in knowing more about what lobbying is done, whether through ALEC or directly, that leads to the so-called “education reform” laws being passed all over the country. How much does the company spend and how do they spend it and what results do they get for it? And is any of that good for meaningful teaching and learning in our schools? And is it good for the company and its shareholders?"

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