The Wall Street Journal editorial pages has been promoting school choice—charters and vouchers—for many years. It sees public education as a government monopoly, not a public service. It has published article after article explaining away the failures of school choice and re-interpreting negative evidence.

A few days ago, the paper may have struck a new low when it published a defense of charter schools by Baker Mitchell, the founder of a for-profit chain of charters in North Carolina, a non-educator who rakes in millions of dollars every year by owning four charters.

When he saw the WSJ article by Mitchell, North Carolina Teacher Stuart Egan pointed out that Baker Mitchell was reiterating the talking points created by Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of the North Carolina Association for Public [sic] Charter Schools.

Who is Baker Mitchell? He is a retired electrical engineer and a libertarian in the Koch brothers’ mold. He moved to North Carolina in 1997 and soon became allied with Art Pope, a rightwing libertarian who funded the Tea Party takeover of the state in 2010.

ProPublica featured Baker Mitchell as an example of a businessman who was turning public education dollars into his own private profits.

Here is an excerpt:

The school’s founder, a politically active North Carolina businessman named Baker Mitchell, shares the Kochs’ free-market ideals. His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization and, if all goes well, healthy corporate profits.

In that regard, Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

Over six years, Mitchell’s two companies have taken in close to $20 million in fees and rent — some of the schools’ biggest expenses. That’s from audited financial statements for just two schools. Mitchell has recently opened two more.

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. 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 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. 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 is illegal in many other states.

John Merrow wrote that Baker Mitchell could teach Jesse James a few tricks. Merrow reviewed the tax filings of Mitchell’s charter schools and hit pay dirt. Of the $55 million his schools had received by 2014, Merrow wrote, Baker had collected $19 million.

Baker Mitchell’s article charges that there is a “smear campaign” against charters. He begins:

Leland, N.C.

With a new school year ahead, the attacks on charter schools have begun anew. In North Carolina we’re hearing outrageous charges of racism. A public-television commentator claimed recently that “resegregation” was the purpose of charter schools “from the start.”

Meanwhile, parents are voting with their feet. Statewide enrollment in traditional public schools has declined four years in a row. Less than 80% of K-12 students now attend district schools. More than 110,000 are enrolled in charters and 100,000 in private schools. More than 140,000 are being home-schooled…

Charges of racism are intended to divert attention from the failure of traditional public schools to educate minority children….

The Roger Bacon Academy, which I founded in 1999, oversees four charter schools in southeastern North Carolina that are among the top-performing in their communities. All four schools are Title 1 schools, meaning 40% or more of the students come from lower-income households. One of the schools, Frederick Douglass Academy in downtown Wilmington, is a majority-minority school.

We succeed where others fail because we do things differently. Our classical curriculum, direct-instruction methods, additional instructional hours, and focus on orderliness are a proven formula for successful learning…

Charter schools do not seek to replace traditional public schools, but rather to complement them, providing alternatives to the existing system. Our way is better for some students, not all. Let parents decide.