Former K12 Inc. Executive Listed Among Top-Paid ‘Government’ Workers

Managing Editor

new report by an advocacy organization places Ron Packard, the former CEO of nationwide, for-profit education provider K12 Inc., among the country’s “highest-paid government workers.”*

Why the asterix?

*”They’re not who you think they are,” asserts the report, released Wednesday by the Center for Media and Democracy.

The center, based in Madison, Wis., describes itself as an investigative research and reporting group that seeks to probe the sway that corporations and “front groups” exert on public policy. Its report, titled “EXPOSED: America’s Highest-Paid Government Workers,” plays on the criticism that gets directed at public agencies and their employees from those who accuse them of taking advantage of taxpayers. The authors redirect that criticism at heads of private organizations that contract with government agencies, including K12, and reap great financial rewards.

The center says Packard earned more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, and notes that that compensation rolled in as K12 achieved a lackluster academic showing in various states. As a company, the report says that K12 took in $848 million in 2013, with $731 million derived from its “managed public schools” operations.

(In January, we reported that Packard had resigned his CEO post at K12 to lead a new company, organized in cooperation with an investor group, focused on integrating technology-based learning in pre-K through college, worldwide. K12 said Packard would remain on K12’s board.) 

In the report, Packard is sarcastically labled America’s highest-paid “teacher,” alongside the other corporate officials, such as George Zoley, the chief executive of the private prison company GEO Group (“America’s highest paid corrections officer”) who the center says made $22 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012.

David Steiner, president and CEO of Waste Management, is called “America’s highest-paid sanitation worker,” earning $45 million between 2006 and 2012, the report states.

K12, a provider of online education and other services based in Herndon, Va., has taken a series of hits to its image in recent years, which include a weak financial showing and criticism from a prominent investor who questioned its performance and financial model. The company, like other online providers, has moved aggressively in recent years to expand its footprint in state capitals and local communities.

Company officials have responded to detractors in the past by noting they serve students from a wide range of backgrounds, including those who have struggled in brick-and-mortar settings. They have also said that their presence in communities nationwide is an indication of the strong demand for their services among parents and students.

“K12 is a company of educators and teachers with more than 70 percent of its staff holding a background in education,” company spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said in a statement, in response to the report. “K12 provides jobs and opportunities to thousands of teachers nationwide, partners with over 2,000 public schools and districts, and proudly serves tens of thousands of educators, students and families.”

The Center for Media and Democracy is known for having challenged a number of interest groups and other organizations aligned with conservative causes, including the American Legislative Exchange Council, a policy organization active in the states on education and other issues. It has also investigated the Koch brothers, who have backed GOP causes across the country.

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