William J. Bennett, former Education Secretary under President Reagan, has stepped down as chairman of virtual schooling provider K12 Inc. amid heavy criticism of remarks he made on his daily radio show in September.

Bennett’s comments on his show, “Morning in America,” came in response to a caller’s question regarding a recent book that suggested an increase in the abortion rate has helped reduce the crime rate.

Bennett said: “I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

Bennett, who is an abortion opponent, went on to say that such abortions would be “an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.”

In response to a backlash from many K12 customers, including Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallas, Bennett resigned from the company’s board on Oct. 3.

“Given the controversy surrounding the remarks I made on my radio show, I am stepping down from my positions at K12, so that neither the mission of the company, nor its children, are affected, distracted, or harmed in any way,” Bennett said in a written statement. He has said all along that his comments were taken out of context by the news media and his critics.

Bennett co-founded the McLean, Va.-based K12 in 1999. The company runs virtual charter schools in at least eight states and the District of Columbia, and it provides curriculum services to more than 70,000 students in a variety of learning environments, according to its web site.

K12 Inc. said it has no relationship with, or involvement in, Bennett’s radio program. The opinions expressed by Bennett on his show are his alone, it said.

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