Alan Singer writes here about Promesa, a charter chain in Texas owned by Southwest Key, the same company that runs detention center for immigrant children.

As is often the case, the big profits are in real estate.

Here is an excerpt from a powerful article:

At one Texas Promesa charter school site, vermin roam the halls, offices, and classrooms and the roof leaks when it rains. The non-profit Southwest Key school pays its non-profit Southwest Key Foundation landlord almost a million dollars a year in state tax money for use of the building. Not only does Southwest Key collect rent from its four Southwest Key charters, but it forces them to purchase services including maintenance and school lunches from Southwest Key affiliate companies at above market rates. Southwest Key Maintenance charges almost $200,000 for janitorial work that an outside company offered to do for $93,000. The food served at Promesa’s schools is purchased from Southwest Key’s for-profit food company, Café del Sol. It is so bad that students have gone on a hunger strike. In addition, Southwest Key charged Promesa over $300,000 this year as a “management” fee and bills the schools for “accounting.”

Southwest Key uses its “non-profit” profits to pay hefty salaries to corporate and charity leaders and to stockpile tens of millions of dollars in reserves. Its former president and his wife were paid a combined $2 million a year. The foundation is now under federal investigation.

Texas Promesea schools are so badly run that when teachers quit they are not replaced. At one school someone hired to teach Spanish was assigned to teach history and someone hired for special-education is teaching photography. At Corpus Christi Promesa graduating senior have difficulty filing college applications and financial aid forms because the chief guidance counselor was laid-off. The Corpus Christi school is in a crumbling former shopping center rented by Promesa for $360,000 a year from a shell company operated by real estate developers tied to Southwest Key’s shelter operation.

The charter operation has tried to escape its reputation by rebranding and now calls itself Promesa Public Schools. It opened new campuses in fall 2018 in Corpus Christi and Brownsville.

As usual, the question is why parents choose to send their children to these terrible profit centers that call themselves “schools.” Betsy DeVos would say that as long as parents “choose” to send their children to vermin-infested profit centers, then all is well. As usual, the answer probably lies in marketing, branding, and promises that ignore reality. Sadly, many parents are gullible and believe the former.