Archives for category: Charter Schools

The blog has its own poet, who signs as “Some DAM Poet—Devalue Added Model.” Here is his or her poem for Imagine charters in Ohio:

“”Imagine” (sincere apologies to John Lennon)

Imagine no regulation
It’s easy if you try
No tax below us
Above us only $ky

Imagine all the charters
Living for today

Imagine there’s no oversight
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to sweat or lie for
And no inspections, too

Imagine all the charters
Living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the charters will cheat as one

Imagine no prosecutions
I wonder if you can
No need for lawyers and trials
A brotherhood of scams

Imagine all the charters
Ruling all the world

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the charters will rule as one

The leader of Cincinnati’s largest charter school pleaded guilty to charges of misusing school funds.

 

This story was published by the Cincinnati Enquirer but ignored by the Columbus Dispatch.

 

When will the public wake up and demand accountability and transparency from charters?

 

“A former superintendent accused of using her charter school as her “personal feifdom” is now a convicted felon, marking the latest blemish for charter schools in this region and statewide.

 

“Lisa Hamm, who ran the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, the region’s largest charter school, cut a deal with prosecutors last week. She pleaded guilty Oct. 8 to three of 26 felony counts against her. The remaining charges, including multiple counts of theft in office and tampering with evidence, were dismissed.”

 

“Hamm, who court documents claim ran the school as her “personal fiefdom,” could get up to 18 months in prison on the charges of unauthorized use of property. Probation is also an option. She agreed to repay $75,000 to the school. She’s scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 24 by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John West.
Hamm of Fairfield, and former treasurer Stephanie Millard, of Walnut Hills, were accused of stealing or misusing $148,000 in taxpayer money that should have gone to educating the 950 students at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy. The court documents allege Hamm instead used the money to pay for extravagant trips, plays, concerts, luggage, spa visits, jewelry veterinary care and other personal uses…..”

Where have the state watchdogs been while Imagine Charters have profited handsomely with taxpayer dollars?

Where has the media been!

The Toledo Blade reports:

“The charter school Imagine School for the Arts is paying rent of nearly $1 million a year on a downtown building with the education funding it gets from the state, prompting criticism from a progressive advocacy group that studied charter-school finances around the state.

“The complicated financial arrangement also involves a school-affiliated trust company spending more than $7 million last year to buy a building valued at less than $2 million.

“The liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio attacked the size of the rent payments at charter schools operated in Toledo and other Ohio cities by Imagine Schools Monday as excessive. Imagine is a national for-profit educational management company.

“According to ProgressOhio, Imagine’s subsidiary, Schoolhouse Finance, collected at least $14.4 million in public money last year for the company’s 17 Ohio schools. Of that, $8.9 million covered rent for long-term leases to Schoolhouse Finance. The $5.5 million balance went to pay “indirect costs” to Imagine to provide management services.

“The state of Ohio and its oversight have been asleep at the wheel. If you look at the Imagine schools and the annual rents, they are outrageous,” said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio in Columbus. “These for-profit management corporations have become profiteers, and they are taking this money to enrich themselves.”

The story says ProgressOhio receives union funding, as though that changes the facts. No, it does not. If the state won’t investigate, then welcome to anyone who does.

“According to ProgressOhio, Imagine Schools pays annual rent of $301,320 for the Clay Avenue Community School building, $175,464 for the Hill Avenue Environmental School, and $942,549 for the Madison Avenue School for the Arts.

“In addition, all three pay a management fee to Imagine: $483,852 for Clay Avenue, $124,646 for Hill Avenue, and $608,020 for Madison Avenue.

“All three had a performance index grade of D in the most recent statewide report card. The district in which those schools are located, Toledo Public Schools, had an overall performance index grade of D.”

Imagine buys the building, then leases it to itself at inflated rentals. That’s the business plan.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Education/2014/10/14/Charter-school-rent-stirs-debate.html#c7BTQOGG4UQjbbxI.99

Many Imagine charter schools are part of a portfolio owned by an entertainment and real estate corporation. Nine Imagine schools are in Ohio. They have a business plan that makes them a good investment as long as they don’t get shuttered for poor performance. Imagine buys a building, then rents the building to itself for the school. It pays a very high rent, above market rates. Imagine turns a profit on these sale-leaseback deals.

The New York Times scrutinized Imagine’s business dealings a few years ago.

St. Louis closed six Imagine charters in 2012.

Most taxpayers assume that they are paying for education, not for corporate profits. They don’t understand how for-profit charters work. ProfitsFirst.

Governor John Kasich has been charter-friendly, to say the least. Ohio is home to some of the nation’s most profitable charter operators. Think ECOT. Think White Hat. These charters gove generously to friendly politicians (think Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party). But now Imagine charters had some embarrassing publicity about some of their lucrative sale-leaseback deals, and even charter champions are calling them “crony capitalists.”

So ProgressOhio has called for an investigation of Imagine.

““Our ‘fiscally conservative’ governor needs to explain why he’s allowed all this money to be wasted and all these kids to be hurt. And his charter school watchdog needs to go,” said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio.

“Rothenberg asked why David Hansen, who heads the state Department of Education’s charter-school accountability office, has ignored the problem, noting that he formerly served on the board of an Imagine school in Columbus and should have known about its lease arrangement.

“Hansen, husband of Kasich’s chief of staff, was on Imagine Academy of Columbus’ board and among those recommending that the school be closed because of poor academic performance. The school closed but reopened weeks later as a new Imagine school with the same lease, which directs more than half of its state aid to rent.”

And more:

“The Dispatch reported on Sunday that five Imagine schools in Franklin County received a combined $20.2 million in per-pupil state aid in the 2012-13 school year. A quarter of that money — more than $5.1 million — was spent on rent, all under long-term leases with Schoolhouse Finance, an Imagine subsidiary.

“A sixth school, Imagine Integrity Academy, spent 81 percent of its $440,009 in state aid on rent in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent audit available.”

High profit margin, no?

“Research by ProgressOhio showed that, despite Imagine’s poor academic performance, Imagine and Schoolhouse Finance collected at least $14.4 million in public money last year for their 17 Ohio schools, according to records from the schools and state auditor.

“More than half — $8.9 million — covered rent for long-term leases to Schoolhouse Finance. The $5.5 million balance went to pay “indirect costs’’ to Imagine to provide management services.

“Rothenberg said the arrangement leaves little money for classroom instruction, and administrators for some of the schools complain that low teacher salaries have caused high staff turnover, which further undermines student achievement.”

Crony capitalism? Yes. Ripoff of public funds intended for children? What do you think?

Jersey Jazzman warns of a very serious malady found in the charter industry: Charter cheerleading.

 

He says it is perfectly normal to be proud of your school and its accomplishments. It is normal to want the world to know that your teachers and kids are terrific.

 

But charter cheerleaders go beyond the bounds of normal pride. Their schools are far, far better than yours. They quote statistics that ignore the reality of skimming and cherry-picking. They even boast when their school has not been open long enough to have produced any statistics. The simple fact of being a “charter” makes them say that they are better than any public school.

 

These people need help.

 

 

Tony Lux, recently retired as superintendent of the Merrillville Community public schools, has written a blistering opinion article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

 

He says that it is time for all supporters of public education to unite and vote for legislators who support public education.

 

Despite the fact that the voters of the state of Indiana overwhelmingly ousted State Superintendent Tony Bennett, an advocate of privatization, his policies continue.

 

Glenda Ritz, running against Bennett, received more votes than Governor Mike Pence, yet Pence has used the powers of his office to cut down the power of Ritz and to push ever more profit-making into the schools.

 

The only way to stop the total destruction of public education in the great state of Indiana is to vote for legislators who will support public schools against the entrepreneurs, privatizers, and profiteers.

 

Lux writes:

 

All public schools continue to be harmed financially [by Pence's policies of privatization]. Tax caps and expanded tax reductions have reduced state income. Along with the continuing obsession for maintaining the golden grail of a $2 billion state surplus, these factors have resulted in declarations by the governor that there just isn’t any state money to appropriately increase school funding. Nevertheless, diversion of education tax dollars toward the proliferation of unproven charter schools and private school vouchers have reduced funding for all public schools.

The governor makes grand claims that Indiana lives within its means (despite tax income that is diminishing due to an array of continuing and expanding tax deductions), and that Indiana maintains strong reserves (through “reversions” that take money back from state programs that serve the public), while still making “investments in education.” These claims ring incredibly hollow and are transparently hypocritical to anyone close to public education (and other public services as well).

Supposedly, business tax breaks will bring new jobs. But those new jobs require better-skilled graduates. Only thriving public schools in our cities, towns, suburbs and farm communities will achieve those results. Charter schools have little evidence of success, and tax dollars for vouchers are being expanded to pay for already-successful students rather than to fund programs for underachieving students.

The state’s return on investment in these strategies is practically negligible in increasing the percentage of students at grade level and in increasing the college and career skills of our high school graduates.

 

Mel Hawkins of Indiana says the election of 2014 may be the most important ever for the future of public education in Indiana. Now is the time to step up and support those who will fund our public schools and oust those vandals who would destroy them and turn our children into profit centers.

A mysterious group called “Families for Excellent Schools” has been f.ooding the airwaves in New York with multimillion dollar ad buys on television, touting the wonders of charter schools and the horror of the “143,000” children trapped in failing schools. The ads show minority children and families, giving the impression that these are the “families for excellent schools.”

In a tour de force of investigative reporting, Mercedes Schneider followed the money. There she is, in Louisiana, stripping away the mask of the millionaires and billionaires pretending to be “families for excellent schools” in New York City. Guess who they are? Not the families in the ads.

Some are named Broad; some are named Walton; some are named Moskowitz.

What a surprise.

Perdido Street blogger asks why it is impossible to find out who contributed to the lobbying group Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $6 million this year to prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters not located on public school grounds.

 

The blogger quotes extensively from the business magazine Crain’s New York, which described how this lobbying group exploited loopholes to avoid complying with state laws that require disclosure of donors to political action committees. “Group is visible,” the article’s title says, “but not its donors.”

 

Why do they hide their names and faces? We know why Perdido Street blogger has no name: he or she would be fired for speaking candidly, although tenure might be an obstacle.

 

But why do Wall Street hedge fund managers hide their identity? Why are they ashamed to let the world know that they are the “Families for Excellent Schools,” that they—whose children attend elite schools—are pretending to be parents in New York City’s poorest communities? Why pretend that impoverished families raised $6 million to attack Bill de Blasio, even as he was fighting to raise the minimum wage, expand universal pre-kindergarten, and preserve public education? Why pretend that the poor families who have been hoodwinked into supporting the privatization of public education are paying for the destruction of public education and the enrichment of investors and charter entrepreneurs?

 

Perdido Street blogger writes:

 

Just as Campbell Brown refuses to reveal who the donors for her anti-tenure group are even as she spends the money she gets from them on her anti-tenure campaign, Families For Excellent Schools spends millions lobbying politicians and millions more on pro-charter ads without revealing where that money is coming from.

 

This is life in Andrew Cuomo’s New York, where he raised millions through his Committee To Save New York PAC, then had that PAC spend that money on ads touting his political agenda, all without having to reveal who was donating to the Committee To Save New York PAC.

 

When the law changed and he would have been forced to reveal that donor base, he shut down the Committee To Save New York instead.

 

The criminals are running the state, folks – they own it, they’re throwing their dirty money around and buying whatever they want and whomever they want whenever they want and there’s NOTHING you can do it about it.

 

Andrew Cuomo’s New York – a cesspool of corruption.

 

 

 

 

Own a charter school! Own four! The road to riches!

 

ProPublica reporters here tell the story of Baker Mitchell in North Carolina, who has discovered that the free market works very well indeed for those who know how to use it.

 

Mitchell has four charter schools in North Carolina. He is also closely allied with Art Pope, the multimillionaire libertarian. He is connected politically. What could possibly go wrong?

 

He boasts that students schooled at his sprawling, rural campuses produce better test scores at a lower cost than those in traditional public schools.

 

The schools, however, do more than just teach children. They are also at the center of Mitchell’s business interests. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through his chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

 

Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts. The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings.

 

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell, 74.

 

It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

 

Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ nonprofit board, which Mitchell was on at the time – an arrangement that would be illegal in many other states.

 

As the article points out, his schools get higher scores than the local public schools, but they enroll half as many needy children as the public schools whose money they poach.

 

Two of Mitchell’s former employees told ProPublica they have been interviewed by federal investigators. Mitchell says he does not know whether the schools are being investigated and that he has not been contacted by any investigators.

 

To Mitchell, his schools are simply an example of the triumph of the free market. “People here think it’s unholy if you make a profit” from schools, he said in July while attending a country-club luncheon to celebrate the legacy of free-market sage Milton Friedman.

 

It’s impossible to know how much Mitchell is profiting from his companies. He has fought to keep most of the financial details secret. Still, audited financial statements show that over six years, companies owned by Mitchell took in close to $20 million in revenue from his first two schools. Those records go through the middle of 2013. Mitchell since has opened two more schools.

 

Some people look at Mitchell’s political activities and his financial rewards, and they see conflicts of interest. Mitchell is making a lot of money. Mitchell says that it is his business how much money he makes. And that is that.

 

My view: all for-profit schools and colleges should be made illegal. They are a ripoff for students and they take money that taxpayers intended for public education, not for investors.

 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/10/15/4233621_new-charter-rules-benefit-owner.html?sp=/99/102/110/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

 

 

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