Philadelphia parents hit Bennett school contract

Philadelphia parents and education advocates are incensed that science curriculum materials in the city’s kindergarten through third grade are supplied under a $3 million contract by a company run by William Bennett, former secretary of education under Ronald Reagan. The company is K12 Inc.

Bennett shocked and angered many with comments he made Sept. 30 on his talk show, “Morning In America.” Bennett said, “If you wanted to reduce crime, you could … abort every Black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Bennett defended his statement which was in response to a caller’s claim that abortions were causing the Social Security system to be insolvent. Bennett said his views were deliberately provocative and were being distorted by an organized political campaign against him.

“I could not get words out of my mouth this morning when I realized that my school district is providing support for this company [K12 Inc.],” said Elainyne Bender, parent of an 11th grader. “On a moral level I would like to see the contract voided.”

“I find it hard to see any explanation for why K12 Inc. is here in Philadelphia educating many of the Black children that Bennett clearly finds it ‘provocative’ to call expendable,” said Helen Gym, parent of a third grader.

Even Paul Vallas, CEO of the school district, called Bennett’s comments “outrageous and offensive to us all.” But only a few months ago, Vallas set aside the science curriculum, materials and books decided on by the teachers in the school district’s Science Curriculum Committee. Without input or recommendation by the committee, Vallas secured the contract for Bennett’s K12 Inc. Teachers on the committee say nobody knew anything about K-12 Inc., which provides curriculum materials for home-schoolers and “virtual cyber charter schools” — all supported with federal funds. Philadelphia became the first school district to adopt K12 Inc. materials district-wide. At that time, Vallas described K12 Inc. as politically influential and its materials cheaper than those that had been recommended.

On Oct. 5, K12 Inc. announced that Bennett had resigned as chairman of the company’s Board of Directors, effective immediately. K12 Inc. said that it has no relationship with or involvement in Bennett’s radio program. Many Philadelphians are still dissatisfied and still want the contract canceled. They want to know if Bennett owns stock in the company. Some question the quality of K12 Inc. materials. Many are phoning Salem Radio Network, which syndicates “Morning In America” to 100 stations nationwide, to ask for the cancellation of Bennett’s talk show. Salem Radio Network calls itself “a Christian Talk, News and Music Radio Station.”