Pansophic Learning, a company launched last June by former Goldman Sachs M&A honcho Ron Packard (shown at left) has plunked down $5.025 million to buy the former Buena Vista High School from the Saginaw Board of Education. The Saginaw Board, by a 4-1 vote last night, approved the recommendation of Interim Superintendent Kelley Peatross to accept the offer from Pansophic Learning to purchase the building.
The Saginaw Intermediate School District voted to close the Buena Vista School District on July 30, 2013. The district's nearly 400 students were split up among the Saginaw, Bridgeport-Spaulding and Frankenmuth districts.
The Saginaw board on January 28 voted 7-0 to reject an offer by Saginaw-based charter school, the Francis Reh Academy, to buy to buy the empty Buena Vista school known as the Phoenix Science & Technology Center for $3.25 million. Board Vice President Alexis Thomas then moved to take the Phoenix building off the market and use state-allocated funds to demolish it.
So who is this Ron Packard guy?
The Pansophic website describes Packard, whose net worth has been estimated at north of $40 billion, as “the CEO and Founder of Pansophic Learning, a global technology based education company. Packard is a well known educator, entrepreneur and visionary as well as the author of the highly regarded and reviewed book, Education Transformation: How K-12 Online Learning is bringing the greatest change to education in 100 years.”
On June 13, 2014, Safanad Limited, a global principal investment firm and Packard announced the launch of Pansophic Learning, a new company with a mission to provide access to a high quality education for every student worldwide.
Pansophic Learning immediately acquired from K12 Inc. several assets including an international brick and mortar private school, a higher education platform business and the K12 business in the Middle East.
Additionally, Pansophic Learning acquired licenses to curriculum and technology.
So why should you care if a guy whose idea of education is plopping your kid in front of a computer for a taste of teacher-free virtual education?
Because it will happen with your money!
K12 Inc. was founded by Packard and former United States Secretary of Education and right-wing talk show host William Bennett in 1999. Packard was able to start K12 Inc. with $10 million from convicted junk-bond king Michael Milken and $30 million more from other Wall Street investors.
K12 Inc. on its own and as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), pushed a national agenda to replace brick and mortar classrooms with computers and replace actual teachers with "virtual" teachers.
K12 Inc. operated 58 full-time virtual schools and enrolled close to 77,000 students in the 2010-2011 school year, according to a May 2013 report by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC, a research organization at the University of Colorado at Boulder).
Many have questioned the company's extraordinary revenue and profit levels, largely generated at taxpayers' expense.
K12 Inc. has been a funder of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), a non-profit education reform advocacy group founded by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, according to emails released by the non-profit privatization resource organization In the Public Interest.
FEE is “backed by many of the same for-profit school corporations that have funded ALEC and vote as equals with its legislators on templates to change laws governing America's public schools,” as noted by PRWatch. Bush's group is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations bent on privatizing public schools that have funded ALEC and “they have pushed many of the same changes to the law, which benefit their corporate benefactors and satisfy the free market fundamentalism of the billionaires whose tax-deductible charities underwrite the agenda of these two groups.”
Attending the meeting on behalf of Pansophic Learning was Bruce Henson, its National Director of School Partnerships.
Henson, based in the Metro Detroit area, was happy to tell any skeptics in the audience that "most of our schools are blended learning across the United States. We use half curriculum and half computer based. Just to let you know, I did found a school in Flint, Michigan that is very successful."
Isn't that special!