Knowledge Universe reaches $1.6 billion in revenue

Knowledge Universe reaches $1.6 billion in revenue

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For-profit child care has come a long way since the 1980s when KinderCare, then a pioneering company, was derided for making profits off kids and branded with the tagline “Kentucky Fried Children.” In its early days, KinderCare quality “was at various levels,” says Roger Neugebauer, publisher of the Child Care Information Exchange, a management magazine for childcare providers. Not today, says Neugebauer, “KinderCare has great staff training and a drive to make their centers the best in the community.”

 

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A cooking class at KinderCare in Cedar Hills teaches children the importance of health food. From left: Lukas, Malaika, Jillian and Jake prepare garden kabobs for lunch.
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Will Parnell, a professor of early childhood education at Portland State University, says KinderCare isn’t typically considered one of the city’s top-ranked practitioners, a category often reserved for well-funded employers or university-sponsored centers such as PSU’s Helen Gordon Center or Nike’s Joe Paterno child development center. But “maybe we could” include KinderCare in those ranks, Parnell says. He noted that many of KinderCare’s centers are certified by the National Association for the Education for Young Children. That’s “a tough thing to accomplish,” he says. The company “is really diving into child development and best practices.”

Knowledge Universe’s CCLC division operates precisely the kind of employer-sponsored centers Parnell lauds, including facilities for Stanford University, and in Portland, Fred Meyer and Oregon Health & Science University. The latter features a state-of-the-art indoor playground connected to the outside by sliding doors, smart-board technology and like all CCLC centers, an eco-healthy certification from the Oregon Environmental Council.

With its focus on technology, sustainability and foreign language (KinderCare even offers an anti-obesity enrichment program, Active Adventures) Knowledge Universe is positioning itself as a solution to the myriad woes facing U.S education. The company lobbies state and national governments to strengthen child care standards and last year joined Change the Equation, a collaboration between the White House and CEOs of 100 companies to cultivate widespread literacy in science, math and technology. “We strongly support setting quality expectations,” Thornton says.  “It’s not just for us —but for states and industry.”

But if what’s good for Knowledge Universe is good for the country, KU has its challenges — namely, while corporate operations may be seamless, the market they are operating in is anything but. Unlike K-12 programs, child care providers are a mixed group, ranging from grandmothers, churches and small family providers to independent nonprofit and for-profit day care centers. And while Knowledge Universe may be a big fish it’s swimming in an even bigger ocean. Consider, for example, that after KinderCare, Learning Care Group, based in Michigan, is the country’s second-largest provider, with 1,136 sites. Massachusetts-based Bright Horizons, the third-largest, operates 730. In total, the big three comprise only 3% of the market.

In an already fragmented market, public schools are also starting to provide preschool programs, a move that has “inhibited growth” of for-profits in recent years, Neugebauer says. Between 2005 and 2009, state funding for prekindergarten increased from $2.9 billion to $5.2 billion, and pre-K is now the fastest-growing sector in public education, according to a 2009 report by the Pew Center for the States.

The recession has also left its mark on private-sector providers. Although Knowledge Universe went through a period of major acquisitions mid decade, company growth has remained flat over the past few years, Thornton says.

As the child care sector becomes more competitive, companies such as KinderCare, which used to serve only fee-paying parents, now aim to serve a broader demographic, Neugebauer says. “It’s a survival strategy,” he says.  In Oregon, for example, most Knowledge Universe centers enroll families participating in the Employment Related Day Care program, a state child care subsidy. KinderCare also partners with the Mt. Hood Community College Head Start program to operate a classroom for low-income kids. “If you walked in the door, there would be no way for you to know,” says Thornton. “It’s about quality education and the socioeconomic piece should be irrelevant.”

Most policy experts agree that such collaborations provide more kids with high-quality child care options. But these public private partnerships are also “very different” from the public K-12 education model, says Steve Barnett, co-director for the National Institute for Early Education Research. Despite the growth of charter and online schools, K-12 districts rarely subcontract core services to the private sector. And in the K-12 arena, corporate resumes are not always met with enthusiasm. Witness the outcry over New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent appointment of Catherine Black, a corporate executive with no education or public sector background, as chancellor of New York City schools.

A former chief financial officer of Albertsons, a grocery story chain, Thornton does not have a background in education, nor does CEO for global operations Peter Maslen, the former president of Starbucks Coffee International. Other members of the executive team, such as Yalow, do have a background in early childhood pedagogy and research. Nevertheless, the company’s financial management roots date back to its controversial founder Milken, who served two years in federal prison for illegal trading and other market manipulations in the early 1990s. Since then he has focused on charitable and educational endeavors, among them the Milken Family Foundation, known for its annual public educator awards.

Today Milken is chairman of Knowledge Universe, but he has no day-to-day responsibilities, Thornton says. “He’s absolutely passionate about education,” she says.

 



Comments   

 
knowledge universe
+40 #1 RE: Knowledge Universe reaches $1.6 billion in revenueknowledge universe 2012-01-01 17:55:57
I it great that this company brags about all their success, however their employees, at least the ones who work with the children, are treated horribly. Ask one of these teachers the last time they got a raise, a decent raise. In the years I have known people who work this company, they have not even received cost of living raise when, the tuition goes up every year!! Ask them how much stress is put on them and how little they are shown appreciation. These people who claim to be working with over 1 million children, and they do not even know how to show appreciation in front of these children, what is that teaching to the future generations!!! Overall ask how LITTLE this company really cares about CHILDREN and how MUCH they care about MONEY!! it is actually very sad.
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JG
+32 #2 worthy wageJG 2012-02-19 14:04:58
after googling the average salary of a kindercare teacher I was shocked that my child's primary care giver and educator was not being compensated in a manner that is proportionate to the companies bottom line, give your employees a worthy living wage
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Melisa Rios
0 #3 Teacher 1Melisa Rios 2012-05-04 00:49:07
I have sent a request for HR assistance from KU Corporate, KLC HR and KLC Licensing and JEN, KLC's District Manager assigned to KLC 5225, Arlington TX., and am awaiting response. I was falsely accused of child negligence by my Center Director & Assistant Director. I am not guilty of the charges made against me, and I am requesting a full investigation of Center 5225. I will continue to work at clearing my name for I believe that I have been wrongfully terminated . I am currently seeking Legal representation regarding this matter. Melisa Rios
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insider
+18 #4 truth about teachers wagesinsider 2012-05-19 03:32:57
The company touts its focus on education and enriching lives but the reality is that they may well be in the commodity management business. It is all about the bottom line of the centers.Teacher s have no contracts and are paid hourly wages below what many make at the burger joint. Even center directors are paid far below a teacher in a public school. Cost controls are rampant in everything, from food, to labor hours to center investments to meet profit goals. I was appalled to see the profit margins they make.
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Melisa Rios-Leonard
-1 #5 Subsequent for Resolution- Wrongful TerminationMelisa Rios-Leonard 2012-05-29 22:24:56
..continuation: i am still awaiting resolution to a situation that i have expressed concern on more than one occasion. i have notified the proper personnel over and over again, but have not yet received a correction to a most unfortunate situation: the center 301223(TX) created a series of unfounded and unclaimed charges to remove me from my workplace. their is no evidence or witness' to the charges other than the management who concocted the outrageous claims to terminate my employment. i need the corporate office to contact me asap.
*please consider this matter to be of importance, as i do.

regards,
melisa rios
682)472-0204
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Guest
-2 #6 RE: Knowledge Universe reaches $1.6 billion in revenueGuest 2012-07-01 20:07:50
I believe this says it all "Founded by former Junk Bond King Michael Milken and his brother, Lowell Milken"
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Guest
+5 #7 Treated poorlyGuest 2012-07-05 16:58:06
I had worked for KinderCare for the last 10 years and was recently terminated for bogus reasons. The teachers and CD's and AD's are treated poorly and have not received a raise in 5 years. How can they expect to retain quality teachers and staff if they aren't going to pay them?? I have 2 degrees in education and CD's that were hired at other centers after me were making more money. There is something wrong with that!!!
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Guest
0 #8 visitorGuest 2012-07-12 07:21:32
I feel those people listed in the above article need to leave the west coast and try their research in middle america and the great lakes region. I think they will be shocked with their results. LOL
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Guest
+4 #9 Questionable CompanyGuest 2012-07-17 01:21:25
I worked for the old Knowledge Learning Corp at a Kindercare and Knowledge Beginnings. I was fired from Kindercare because while I was attending to a child with a head injury another child left the room. Mind you there was another teacher in attendance. Fortunately nothing serious occurred to the children and while I was filling out a report form I was asked to leave. I was called and came back, was fired with no reprimands to anyone else who shared equal responsibility for the class (my report form mysteriously disappeared). I had gone to this center because at Knowledge Beginnings I was expected to take care of it's psych and addict clients/employe es (haven't they heard of the police?)and darn near died from their toxicity. I was on unemployment for 8 months before I could get another job and years later still have 0 respect for this company. Oddly enough if you check it's background it has reorganized multiple times (I wonder why). I sincerely hope that for all of those whose careers have been adversely affected that they are able to clear their names and continue in this otherwise, underpaid, overworked but wonderful field. And be assured that this company does well only because they are convenient, not because they are credible.
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Guest
0 #10 Wrongful Termination (Termination without Justifiable Cause)Guest 2012-07-22 03:17:15
i wanted to let the KU bloggers know where i am mishap wise; i am not allowed to return to any KU affiliated center, my request for the 'reason for termination' to be changed is disagreeable on their part? i have done my best to plead my case in the 64 days since my involuntary dismissal. still no actual evidence existed/exists to fire me, and yet as it turns out, shortly thereafter, a decision to re-structure the center was made. perhaps, partly due to a; poorly handled leadership team, mishandling of parental data, finances, lack of supervision with respect to children and teachers, amongst other things? hr had once asked "what it was that i was trying to achieve"? i then realized that i was pleading my case with carefree individuals that lacked empathy. a character trait desperately useful in this line of work. i have done well at humbly presenting my wishes, so i refuse to believe that i could again be misunderstood. while still maintaining a mind-set of an employee on duty for a while; i sought only what an employer would come to expect from an employee; equality and respect and nothing more. it has been 64 days without work now, a drop in the bucket for KU, but an unnecessary, and terribly worrisome time for me. in that time, i have received calls from various legal entities representing former employees from various Kinder Care Learning Centers; unlawful terminations occurring rampant, which i found to be rather fascinating, as they must have read my blogs as well? some of the issues were relative and others not so much. i decided to discontinue legal counseling, as it deemed unnecessary, and i truly believe that all will be made right in time. i do miss the children and i hear quite often that they as well reciprocate. : ]

regards, MR

... "Knowledge Learning Center a/k/ a Knowledge Universe is plowing ahead, carving out a niche in a market that by 2015 is expected to exceed $39 billion a year, according to Global Industry Analysts".
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Guest
+10 #11 corruptionGuest 2012-08-30 00:17:31
This company is corrupt globally. The Milkens have just figured out how to milke government funds, tax agencies and the non discerning public a different way.
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Guest
+1 #12 crazy through outGuest 2012-09-24 21:11:26
If it makes anyone feel better. The internal organization is rampant with people feeding off the corporation with heavy salaries and taking all they can but doing very little. In the main IT org the (mal adjusted crazy) supervisor was using a private cell phone to take all user calls. The upper management could not tell what is going on so he controls and bypasses the normal documentation that would allow visibility as to what he and staff are doing ( which is not much good), so he stays on and is horrible to all who could do some good but have to work with him. Not outwardly nasty but a bully behind the scene and gets those who do not do everything to keep him in total control, fired. His staff works like zombies.
There are about 3 to 4 times more staff than normally needed for all the IT systems they have. It is sad that these people userp all the money in salaries, lay back in their chairs all day and get extremely little done while the teachers aren't paid.
The whole internal operations of the company is out of control and taking advantage salary wise. IT is not just the Milkins taking it all. They would save a lot by getting rid of the majority of the IT group and getting some people that really want to work for their pay. Certainly has not been the case.
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Guest
-1 #13 former Center DirectorGuest 2012-12-04 17:46:37
To Guest. Can you give me the name(s) of the legal representation? I need someone for wrongful termination. The stuff I went through at this place is unbelievable and no one cares. I am now unemployed and suffering because of their careless and uncaring way that they terminated me. I followed a direct order, then was let go for the consequences of that. Please help.
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Guest
-3 #14 customer service orientedGuest 2013-02-01 19:41:36
I've never been a fan of FORMER employees who complain and talk about legal actions and unfair treatment posted on the former company in this manner. If it was legitimate they would have found an attorney to represent them through more professional means. When people handle things inappropriately it also makes me think that the company did the right thing in termination or disciplining an employee because they likely were inappropriate professionally as well while they were employed.

From a parent and customer standpoint - I am fully supportive of any educational institution that demands superior care and education for my child and the elimination of mediocrity. Mediocrity is what is killing our educational system today while passing on the responsibility and blame to the parent - who pays for their children to be monitored and educated in a learning environment.
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Guest
-1 #15 curiousGuest 2013-02-08 23:09:00
Knowing that pedophiles are superb at hiding their craft (they actually spend more time, sometimes, years, creating a perfect image than they do grooming victims, often by befriending parents, serving in the community, etc.), I am curious; what kinds of protections are really in place for these children, besides background checks. If they are ever brought in for questioning because a parent reports something suspicious, how transparent would that event be? It MIGHT be safer than taking a child to a private sitter, but pedophiles are always drawn to numbers of children and ease of access.
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Guest
+3 #16 HorribleGuest 2013-02-09 18:48:05
Kindercare is the WalMart of preschool. Terrible pay, terrible benefits and terrible education. I am a former employee and was horrified at the retail influenced "education." I now work at a respectable preschool that has a long waiting list to get in. I'm sure there are some great teachers at Kindercare, however they are being managed by greedy hungry corporate powers. Lets just say they have a huge legal department so that they can keep their billions. I could no longer morally support the greed. We were not selling T-shirts, we were caring for precious children. In this case, you don't get what you pay for. Don't take your children to Kindercare. There are plenty of respectable preschools out there.
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Guest
+4 #17 Distance from everyoneGuest 2013-02-15 17:53:27
As a former employee I can tell you the company is ran by a bunch of bankers. Because of this, there is no connection between the decision makers and the people doing the actual work nor have they put in any effort to do so. There wallets get fatter while those doing the work get smaller.
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Guest
+4 #18 unjustly termination based on lies by director and district managerGuest 2013-03-20 07:23:03
Quoting Melisa Rios:
I have sent a request for HR assistance from KU Corporate, KLC HR and KLC Licensing and JEN, KLC's District Manager assigned to KLC 5225, Arlington TX., and am awaiting response. I was falsely accused of child negligence by my Center Director & Assistant Director. I am not guilty of the charges made against me, and I am requesting a full investigation of Center 5225. I will continue to work at clearing my name for I believe that I have been wrongfully terminated . I am currently seeking Legal representation regarding this matter. Melisa Rios

Did you get any answers? just recently in same situation after working at KC for 8 years!
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Guest
+2 #19 KinderCare SUCKSGuest 2013-11-14 00:12:38
I currently work at a KinderCare and it's ridiculous. I was offered 4 childcare jobs when I moved back to the area and I'll admit I was swooned in my KinderCare interview by "competitive pay" and "wage increases" and "amazing benefits". This was all a lie. They treat their employees TERRIBLE! I have worked there 6 weeks now and have never worked a 40 hour week. I come into work at 730am and they make me take my "lunch" break at 9am because they have no where to put me for that hour until they have me cover breaks for other teachers. They make me clean closets and empty classrooms when they have no where else to put me and they always cut me early. They cut everyone early in order to save hours and none of the teachers have received more than a 90 cent raise even after completing higher certifications. It's a joke. The only thing that keeps me there is the precious children because I love getting to work with them everyday.
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Guest
0 #20 Center DirectorGuest 2014-07-26 08:47:43
Ouch, reading all of these comments makes me sad. No large company is perfect, but my little center is. They allow me the space to hire great teachers and provide outstanding curriculum to educate the beautiful children in my care. Sorry there are so many disgruntled employees. I don't feel that way.
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Guest
0 #21 same happened hereGuest 2014-07-26 20:47:01
same thing happened to me... after 8 yrs of working there (san diego), lies from the new director who was the district manager´s friend!!! good luck!
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