- K12 Inc., one of the largest for-profit virtual schools in the nation, announced plans to rebrand a number of its products under a new banner: Fuel Education.
- The virtual education provider says the decision to rebrand is not to distance itself from a recent wave of critical news reports but rather to regroup a number of related offerings under one, marketable banner.
- Fuel Education, a separate legal entity owned by K12 Inc., will provide various “personalized learning” platforms, as well as professional development content, consulting, and virtual classes.
- K12 Inc., has received a high volume of critical attention recently. The American Federation of Teachers called the company out on its new site, Cashing in on Kids, as one of the most egregious education profiteers.
K12 Inc. saying its decision to rebrand has nothing to do with negative press is difficult to believe. How often do successful companies rebrand? And K12 Inc. is definitely successful — at least monetarily. While a 2012 study by the National Education Policy Center found K12 Inc. students were “falling further behind in reading and math scores than students in brick-and-mortar schools,” the company’s annual report that year estimated $708.4 million in revenue. And according to the Washington Post, the company’s CEO, Ron Packard, took home $5 million in 2011.
The virtual company, which facilitates online learning programs in over 30 states, has come under fire for a myriad of issues recently: poor academic performance and allegations of placing pressure on districts to enroll students in its online courses — even if the students are not a good fit for virtual learning.
All of the preceding negative press makes K12 Inc.'s re-branding as Fuel Education feel somewhat duplicitous. In ways, it is reminiscent of what some for-profit education management companies have done when states shut down one of their schools: simply open a new school to replace the one the state closed for poor academic performance. The new school — run by the same company — opens at the same address and with much of the same staff, but is technically different because of the name.
Fuel Education may be a different name, but at the end of the day, it is still owned by K12 Inc. and the products within were designed by K12 Inc., as well.