Ball State University announced that it was not renewing seven charters.
Among the seven were three Imagine charters, one in Indianapolis and two in Fort Wayne.
Imagine is one of the nation’s biggest for-profit charter operators.
Last year, Imagine lost all its charter schools in Missouri and the remainder of its schools in Georgia.
This year, Imagine was closed in St. Petersburg, Florida, and one of its schools in D.C. is in trouble.
These closures raise an interesting question about the risk involved for corporations that invest in charter schools. Imagine is backed by a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) called Entertainment Properties, which also invests in multiplexes, real estate, and shopping malls. Entertainment Properties owns MASTer Academy in Ft. Wayne and the shuttered Imagine Indiana Life Sciences Academy-East in Indianapolis.
Another Imagine school in Indianapolis (also owned by EPR) apparently was not up for renewal this cycle.
The CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust was boasting just last year that charter schools were a stable business opportunity, “very recession-resistant,” and he added: “there’s not a lost of risk, there’s probably risk to everything but the fact is, this has bipartisan support. It’s part of the Republican platform and Arne Duncan, secretary of education in the Obama administration, has been very high on it throughout their work in public education. So we have both political parties very solidly behind it, you have high demand, high growth, you have good performance across the board.”
Well, there is actually quite a lot of risk when the authorizers start cracking down on low performers.
The sad part is that the opening and closing of schools disrupts the lives of children and destroys communities. If it is just another investment, well, so be it. If it is the life of your child or your community, it matters quite a lot.
Need we say it again and again: Schools are not shoe stores or barber shops. They should not open and close at will. Public schools should be a permanent fixture in every community, as assured as roads and police stations. If they need help, they should get it. If they need a new principal, they should get it. That’s the job of public officials, not entrepreneurs.