Pennsylvania’s largest charter school is the Chester Community Charter School. It is owned by Philadelphia lawyer Vehan Gureghian, who is a major donor to the Republican Party in the State. He was the biggest contributor to former Republican Governor Tom Corbett. What is surprising about his political donations is how little it takes to win the affection of the party in power. The Chester Community Charter School enrolls most of the elementary students in its district and even draws students from Philadelphia, despite the fact that it is a low-performing school on state tests. As you will see in one of the articles below, CCCS received a charter renewal through 2026, an extension not given to any other charter in the state.

The Keystone State Education Coalition posted this list of his political contributions. 

Blogger commentary: In an effort to gain a better understanding of the dynamics in Harrisburg, from time to time over the years we have published “Follow the Money” charts using data from the PA Department of State’s Campaign Finance Reporting website:


We’ll leave it up to our readers to draw their own conclusions regarding how such contributions may or may not influence policymakers as they go about the people’s business in Harrisburg.


The chart below lists over $470,000 in campaign contributions made by Mr. and Mrs. Gureghian for PA state offices from 2013 through 2019.


Highlights include $205,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, $37,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $30,000 to House Speaker Mike Turzai, $82,000 to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s Build PA PAC, $85,000 to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and$16,000 to House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler.


While school district budgets, check registers and salaries are public information, charter school management companies like Gureghian’s CSMI are not required to provide any details on how they spend taxpayers dollars. CSMI runs Chester Community Charter School, the state’s largest brick and mortar charter. CSMI’s founder and CEO is Vahan H. Gureghian of Gladwyne, a lawyer, entrepreneur and major Republican donor –the largest individual contributor to former Gov. Tom Corbett. And though CSMI’s books are not public – the for-profit firm has never disclosed its profits and won’t discuss its management fee – running the school appears to be a lucrative business. State records show that Gureghian’s company collected nearly $17 million in taxpayer funds just in 2014-15, when only 2,900 students were enrolled.”


Over the years, Gureghian has spent well over $1 million on political contributions in Pennsylvania.


“As previously reported by the (Palm Beach) Daily News, the buyers in this week’s sale are Philadelphia attorney and businessman Vahan Gureghian and his attorney wife, Danielle. Two weeks ago, they sold their never-lived-in oceanfront mansion on 2 acres at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. for more than $40 million. That 35,992-square-foot mansion had been on the market for about four years. ….Vahan Gureghian is involved in a number of businesses, he said, including management and consulting in the charter-school industry through a company he founded, CSMI Education Management. His wife provides legal counsel for his business ventures, he said.”

Exclusive: Palm Beach mansion lost by developer in bankruptcy sells for $30.275M

Palm Beach Daily news By Darrell Hofheinz  July 12 Posted at 5:46 PM Updated at 6:32 PM

Mortgage-holder sells former home of Robert V. Matthews to couple who just sold a Palm Beach mansion for more than $40 million. As developer Robert V. Matthews awaits sentencing on felony conspiracy and money-laundering charges in Connecticut, the Palm Beach seaside mansion he completed in 2006 has changed hands for a recorded $30.275 million. The deed recorded today shows the house at 101 Casa Bendita was sold by Singer Island Tower Suite LLC, which took title in April via a bankruptcy judge’s order in Matthews’ Chapter 11 case. The seller is identified in court documents as an “assignee” of a Deutsche Bank affiliate owed $31 million from a mortgage it held on the property. Matthews moved out of the mansion with his wife, Mia, shortly after the bankruptcy court’s March 31 order. Matthews developed the long-troubled, never-finished — and since-sold — Palm House hotel-condominium at 160 Royal Palm Way, which is a focus of his federal criminal case in Connecticut. The six-bedroom, two-story residence on Casa Bendita has 15,849 square feet of living space, inside and out, on nearly an acre. With about 188 feet of beachfront, the property lies about a three-quarters of a mile north of Royal Palm way.


Following data is from the Pennsylvania Department of State Campaign Finance website:

Selected State Level Campaign Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 2013 – 2019


Recipient Date Amount
TURZAI, MIKE FRIENDS OF 9/5/2013 $10,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 3/18/2014 $75,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 9/16/2014 $27,500.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 10/31/2014 $25,000.00
TURZAI, MIKE LEADERSHIP FUND 10/4/2014 $10,000.00
SENATE REP CAMPAIGN COM 4/14/2015 $25,000.00
SENATE REP CAMPAIGN COM 3/10/2015 $12,727.91
SCARNATI, JOSEPH FRIENDS OF 10/31/2016 $25,000.00
SCARNATI, JOSEPH FRIENDS OF 10/31/2016 $25,000.00
BUILD PA PAC 6/15/2016 $10,000.00
CORMAN, JAKE FRIENDS OF 10/26/2016 $10,000.00
SCARNATI, JOSEPH FRIENDS OF 11/9/2017 $10,000.00
BUILD PA PAC 6/22/2017 $10,000.00
CORMAN, JAKE FRIENDS OF 10/16/2017 $2,500.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 8/29/2017 $2,750.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 11/2/2017 $3,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 11/2/2017 $2,000.00
CUTLER, BRYAN FRIENDS OF 6/15/2018 $5,000.00
SCARNATI, JOSEPH FRIENDS OF 10/31/2018 $25,000.00
TURZAI, MIKE FRIENDS OF 9/12/2018 $10,000.00
BUILD PA PAC 6/4/2018 $25,000.00
BUILD PA PAC 7/25/2018 $25,000.00
BUILD PA PAC 10/17/2018 $10,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 4/24/2018 $5,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 5/1/2018 $20,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 7/20/2018 $10,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 9/18/2018 $10,000.00
HOUSE REP CAMPAIGN COM 2004, INC 10/26/2018 $25,000.00
SAYLOR, STAN CITIZENS FOR 5/29/2018 $5,000.00
BUILD PA PAC 3/29/2019 $2,000.00
CUTLER, BRYAN FRIENDS OF 4/3/2019 $1,000.00
CUTLER, BRYAN FRIENDS OF 5/28/2019 $10,000.00



Mansion of embattled Palm Beach developer sells for $30M (Photos)

By Brian Bandell  – Senior Reporter, South Florida Business Journal Jul 15, 2019, 12:31pm EDT Updated Jul 15, 2019, 12:44pm EDT

Philadelphia businessman Vahan H. Gureghian paid $30.275 million for the Palm Beach mansion that belonged to embattled Palm Beach developer Robert V. Matthews. Singer Island Tower Suite LLC, part of DB Private Wealth Mortgage, sold the nearly 16,000-square-foot home at 101 Casa Bendita to Gureghian. The lender seized the home in April under orders of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Matthew’s personal Chapter 11 filing. DB Private Wealth Mortgage, part of Deutsche Bank, had a $27.4 million loan on the property. The bank provided a $25.67 million mortgage to Gureghian to help him buy the property. Matthews built the oceanfront home on the 0.88-acre site in 2006. The mansion has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, two half bathrooms and a pool. Gureghian, the founder and CEO of CSMI, which invests in the charter school industry, can immediately occupy the home.


“The decision means staff and parents at the state’s largest bricks-and-mortar charter – already slated to receive more than $55 million in taxpayer funds this school year – won’t have to worry about its fate for nearly a decade, even if its test scores continue to fall far short of state benchmarks. It also guarantees that CSMI LLC, a for-profit education management company that operates the K-8 school with 4,200 students, will receive millions of dollars in revenue for nine more years. Chester Community’s extension comes as school districts across the commonwealth and nation are wrestling with the growth of charter schools, more privatization in education and the impact on traditional public schools. It also renews lingering questions about the intersection of politics, government and schools.

Reprise Dec. 2017: How Chester Community Charter School got a 9-year deal

Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Posted: December 22, 2017

For years, charter school proponents have been trying to change Pennsylvania law so that operating agreement renewals could be extended from five years to 10. They haven’t succeeded in Harrisburg. But that didn’t deter Chester Community Charter School. One year into Chester Community’s latest five-year agreement, Peter R. Barsz, the court-appointed receiver who oversees the financially distressed Chester Upland School District and wields nearly all the powers of a school board, took the unprecedented step of extending the Delaware County school’s term for five more years to 2026. Barsz contends that the move was designed to protect Chester High School: In return, Chester Community, which already enrolls about 70 percent of the primary grade students in the struggling district, agreed not to open a high school.


“The Pennsylvania Department of Education is questioning the Chester Upland School District’s decision to renew its operating agreement with the state’s largest brick-and-mortar charter school through 2026 while the school was just one year into its current five-year term.”

Reprise April 2018: Judge, state question quick renewal for Chester charter school

Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Posted: April 20, 2018

The Pennsylvania Department of Education is questioning the Chester Upland School District’s decision to renew its operating agreement with the state’s largest brick-and-mortar charter school through 2026 while the school was just one year into its current five-year term. “If charters are going to be renewed right out of the chute, … they’ve already been approved before they’ve even performed,” said James Flandreau, a lawyer for the department, at hearings this week ordered by a Delaware County Court judge. “Certainly, one year is way too early to evaluate any charter’s performance.” Kevin Kent, a lawyer for Chester Community Charter School, said the court-appointed receiver and school district could reevaluate the charter school at any point. “Nothing’s been compromised,” he said. Peter Barsz, the receiver for the financially distressed district, testified on Thursday that he had reviewed audits and school performance records and had support from the district’s school board before approving the renewal request last year that allowed the charter school to operate through 2026.