Archives for category: For-Profit

Georgia’s K12 Cyber Academy rakes in millions yet gets poor results for many of its 13,000 students.

The state’s largest “school” collects $82 million a year, but the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement gave it a D for poor performance.

Georgians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on one of the biggest online schools in the nation, yet nearly every measure indicates the high-tech, online education model has not worked for many of its more than 13,000 students.

Georgia Cyber Academy students log onto online classes from home, where they talk to and message with teachers and classmates and do assignments in a way that will “individualize their education, maximizing their ability to succeed,” according to an advertisement. But results show that most of them lag state performance on everything from standardized test scores to graduation rates.

The charter school’s leaders say they face unique challenges, with large numbers of students already behind when they enroll. They have plans to improve results but also claim the state’s grading methods are unfair and inaccurate. However, the state disagrees, and if the academy cannot show improvement soon, the commission that chartered the school could shut it down.

Since it opened with a couple thousand students in 2007, the academy has grown to become the state’s largest public school, with students from all 159 counties. In the 2015 fiscal year alone, it reported receiving $82 million in state and federal funding.

The academy earned a “D” for 2015 from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The academy scored near the bottom in the state that year for “growth,” a measure of how each student did on standardized state tests compared to others with similar past performance.

The graduation rate of 66 percent lagged behind the state average by 13 percentage points. Reading ability in third grade, a key marker of future academic success, also lagged, with 47 percent of its students able to digest books on their grade level versus a state average of 52 percent.

The State Charter Schools Commission, established in 2013 as an alternative to going through a school district to start a charter school, authorized the academy in 2014-15. The commission requires its schools to meet annual academic, financial and operational goals in three of the first four years of operation. The academy, which had operated for seven years under the Odyssey Charter School in Coweta County before obtaining its own charter, did not perform as required in its first year as an independent school. It scored one out of a possible 100 points on the academic portion of its evaluation, which assesses performance, mainly on standardized tests, compared to traditional schools. The results for 2015-16 are still being calculated.

There have been similar reports about virtual charter schools from other states, most recently from California, where the K12 operation is being investigated by the State Department of Education and the Attorney General’s office.

CREDO at Stanford reported that a student attending a virtual charter school lost 180 days of learning math and 72 days of learning in reading.

If the K12 school were a public school, state authorities in every state would have shut it down by now.

The burning issue is why don’t they?

Denis Smith worked in the Ohio charter school office, and he saw the combustible mix of deregulation, money, and politics. This is a combination sure to produce scandal. And it has.

Smith reports here on the biggest scandal: the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). It has the lowest graduation rate in the nation, according to the New York Times. It is a for-profit virtual charter. Its owner William Lager is one of the state’s major donors to the Republican Party. His patrons protect him from scrutiny or accountability.

One of the supporters of ECOT is Andrew Brenner, chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee. He despises public schools.

Brenner has said previously that “public education is socialism.” But if we follow the Chairman’s logic (hmm, I thought only well-known socialists and collectivists like Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev were referred to as Chairman), we find illogic, viz., the Chairman of the Education Committee seems very much opposed to public education.

But the illogic gets worse.

Profits generated from the public funds received by charter school operators like Lager and White Hat Management’s David Brennan flow to their favorite Republican politicians in the form of contributions. These profits, snared by privately operated management companies with hand-picked, unelected boards not subject to full public transparency and exempt from 150 sections of state law, ultimately wind their way to committee chairs in the legislature as well as more senior leadership in the House and Senate.

To Chairman Brenner, this is capitalism at work. And capitalism is the very opposite of socialism, right? Yes socialism, as evidenced by the operation of public school districts who raise their revenue from the taxation of local property and who are subject to full legal transparency and accountability, governed by a group of citizens elected by qualified voters in the community where they operate. These are community schools, the real public schools. Contrast that with charter schools, where, unlike public schools, there is no requirement for board members to be qualified voters, viz. citizens.

I wonder why Republicans aren’t in favor of requiring proof of citizenship for charter school board members, as they are for some voters. Hmmm.

Public money for private purposes.

The New York Times published an article about how critics of public schools now call them “government schools.” This is supposed to conjure up an image of a faceless, unaccountable bureaucracy, like the IRS, not your neighborhood public school whose teachers you know well.

I first heard this term used at the Hoover Institution. At first I didn’t know what they were talking about, then I realized that the public schools were, in their minds, “government schools,” a heinous institution that should be replaced by private schools, vouchers, religious schools, charters, home schooling, anything but those hated “government schools.” I began to wonder if they referred to highways as “government highways” and found a way to avoid them; if they referred to public parks as “government parks,” to be avoided or privatized; if they referred to public beaches as “government beaches.”

Privatization always has a bottom line: profit. And as Peter Greene recently pointed out, the difference between for-profit charter schools and non-profit charter schools is an illusion. The nonprofits like to grow, increasing their revenues and salaries for top administrators. They too exclude the hardest-to-educate children (they cost too much, which affects the bottom line).

One area where privatization has been a major failure is privatized prisons, publicly funded but privately managed. They produce profit. They do not reduce recidivism because they want more prisoners, not fewer.

Our faithful reader John Ogozalek, who teaches high school in upstate New York, sent a letter this morning on the same subject. I decided to let him tell the story:

Diane,

You probably saw this New York Times article about the efforts to redefine public schools in Kansas. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/us/schools-kansas-conservatives.html

It’s another fascinating example of how linguistics is being used to twist the argument over school reform.

Once again, the public good is demonized and complicated challenges are reduced to a simplistic need to “rebrand”.

I’m also in the middle of reading a very lengthy piece in Mother Jones (August 2016) about the for-profit prison industry. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-private-prisons-corrections-corporation-inmates-investigation-bauer

The parallels to the for-profit school industry are scary: lack of adequate training for staff, the obsession with profits over people and outright cheating to get around government safeguards…gag rules to keep employees from speaking out. And, of course, ALEC rears its ugly head once again.

I taught many years ago in the New York State prison system. It was for about as long as the reporter for Mother Jones worked at the for-profit prison in Louisiana. Of course, there are very significant differences between the New York State Department of Corrections and the Corrections Corporation of America -not the least of which is the low pay, non-union labor force that the CCA relies on to make money for its shareholders.

And, interestingly enough, the shareholders of for-profit prisons includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Are their tentacles missing from any corner of the U.S.A.?) https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/jul/6/demonstrators-protest-gates-foundations-22-million-investment-geo-group/

My time teaching at the prison was invaluable -not only for helping me understand the huge role that this industry plays in our democracy but also for giving me a way to connect to former students who end up incarcerated. (I recently went to see one young man I taught years ago. The prison he’s in looks like a child’s drawing of a medieval fortress. Visitors walk up to the massive, rusticated castle and enter a thick, steel door that opens right out of the prison wall. If it wasn’t so frightening you might feel like you’re part of a cartoon. To see someone you knew as a child emerge from deep within that stone labyrinth is heartbreaking.

All Americans should visit a prison, I think -especially if you know someone who works as a corrections officer. It is a tough job and I respect the people I worked alongside. Shane Bauer makes it clear in his Mother Jones investigation that the COs at the for-profit prison are sort of prisoners in a manner, too. They’re treated as cogs in a brutal human assembly line.

I remember quitting my job at the correctional facility 30 years ago. It was a very happy moment as I walked up to the razor wire fence on my way out. The Superintendent (i.e. warden) had tried to convince me to stay. “It’s a growth industry,” he said, citing the career I was giving up. Hell no!

I could afford to leave. I didn’t have a mortgage, no kids going to college. I’m not the quitting sort but it was clear I had to go.

It’s very unsettling to now see public schools nationwide being turned upside down by some of the same forces that have made some prisons so incredibly inhumane now. Frightening is a better word. I sit at my desk some days and imagine how it will feel when I walk out of school for the very last time.

-John O.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris reached a settlement of $168.6 million with mega-virtual charter K12 Inc. This settlement reflects the good investigative reporting of Jessica Calefati of the San Jose Mercury News, whose investigative reporting led to Harris’ review of K12’s finances and practices.

There are two more investigations underway: one by the California State Department of Education and the other by the State Controller. Now that virtual charters have been discredited by studies and thrown under the bus by the rest of the charter industry, this aspect of the industry may finally be on the skids.

“California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Friday the state Department of Justice has reached a $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online charter school operator K12 Inc. over an array of alleged violations of false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.

“The settlement comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published a two-part investigative series on the publicly-traded Virginia company, which runs a network of profitable but low-performing online charter schools serving about 15,000 students across the state.

“Harris’ office found that K12 and the “virtual” academies it operates across the state used deceptive advertising to mislead parents about students’ academic progress, parent satisfaction and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission.

“The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company improperly coerced the non-profit schools it operates to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.”

Politico reports that K12 Inc. disagrees with the characterization of the settlement:

– Speaking of charter schools, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that virtual charter school operator K12 Inc. will pay $168.5 million to settle [http://politico.pro/29NP6eM] alleged violations of the state’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws: http://politico.pro/29nJ0Nj . But K12 pushed back on the settlement amount – preferring not to include $160 million in financial relief that Harris’ office says will be provided to certain schools that K12 manages. Instead, K12 CEO Stuart Udell said the company will only pay $2.5 million to settle the case, and another $6 million for Harris’ investigative costs. Udell said his company admitted no wrongdoing. “The Attorney General’s claim of $168.5 million in today’s announcement is flat wrong,” Udell said. “Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement, just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated.”

– The settlement is another black eye for the virtual charter industry, which just last month had three reform-minded groups calling for it to be improved, or else problems such as low graduation rates will “overshadow the positive impacts this model currently has on some students.” [http://politi.co/1tyKbnt] More from Kimberly Hefling: http://politico.pro/29ImzF8

Throughout this presidential campaign, we have been treated (or subjected) to statements by both Democratic candidates Clinton and Sanders about charters: They don’t like “private charters” (Sanders) or “for-profit charters” (Clinton).

There are no “private charters.” All charters receive public funding. That’s what makes them so attractive to investors. That secure stream of government funding.

At the very least, we can be glad that Clinton is opposed to the for-profits, which rip off taxpayers and divert public funding to their stockholders and owners. Let’s hope that means she is prepared to cut off federal funding that goes to the scam artists of the charter world. No more 3-card Monte with public dollars.

But is there a difference between “for-profit charters” and “non-profit charters”?

Peter Greene says it is a distinction without a difference.

He writes:


In this scenario, I set up my non-profit school– and then I hire a profitable management company to run the school for me. The examples of this dodge are nearly endless, but let’s consider a classic. There’s the White hat management company that was being dragged into court way back in 2011. This particular type of arrangement was known as a “sweeps contract,’ in which the school turns over close to all of its public tax dollars and the company operates the school with that money– and keeps whatever they don’t spend. The White Hat story is particularly impressive, because the court decided that White Hat got to keep all of the materials and resources that it bought with the public tax dollars.

Or consider North Carolina businessman Baker Mitchell, who set up some non-profit charter schools and promptly had them buy and lease everything– from desks to computers to teacher training to the buildings and the land– from companies belonging to Baker Mitchell. From Marian Wang’s 2014 profile:

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.

Real estate grabs

All charter schools– even the non-profits– can get into the real estate business as a tasty sideline for providing a school-like product. Charter producers can find money to fund a building and then– voila– they own a tasty piece of real estate. Remember– thanks to some Clinton-era tax breaks, an investor in a charter school can double the original investment in just seven years!

In fact, there are real estate companies in the charter school business. And this can be a particularly terrible deal for the taxpayers. Bruce Baker lays out here how the public can pay for the same building twice– and end up not owning it. Read the whole thing– it’s absolutely astonishing.

Write a big fat check

If you have the giant cojones for it, you can just write yourself a big fat check with all those public taxpayer dollars. To use one of everyone’s favorite data points– Carmen farina is paid $200,000 to oversee 135,000 employees and 1.1 million students. Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy chain handles 9,000 students, for which Moskowitz is paid almost half a million dollars. And while Moskowitz gets plenty of attention, she is by no means unique….

And that’s just the profit issue

This is before we talk about every anti-democratic, school-destroying, segregation-spreading, education-failing, community-disrupting, and achievement-gap-increasing aspect of charter schools. As readers of this blog know, while charters can (and once were) a good thing, the modern charter movement has turned them into one of the most destructive forces in education today.

But we’re going to maintain focus

We’re going to stick to one point, and the point is this– to pretend that there is a substantive difference between profit and non-profit charter schools is either willfully ignorant or deliberately misleading. I’ve said it many times– a modern non-profit charter school is just a for-profit school with a good money-laundering plan.

No state is more in need of advocates for children and public schools in its legislature than Florida.

The Florida legislature at present is in the pockets or the hands (or both) of the privatization lobby. It enacts bill after bill to outsource its schools to private companies, many operating for profit. It pours millions into failing charter schools and failing voucher schools. It authorizes crooked operators and funds charters that never open. It enacts legislation that demoralizes and harms its teachers. Hurting teachers hurts children.

It is time for a change.

That is why the NPE Action Fund proudly endorses Rick Roach, a champion for public schools, who is running for a seat in the Florida State Senate.

If you live in District 13, please help Rick get elected. If you don’t, consider sending him a contribution.

Rick is the school board member in Orange County who took the state standardized test and wrote about it.

“I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

“It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities….

“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

Foreign Policy published an informative article about Liberia’s determination to outsource its primary school system.

Liberia’s Education Fire Sale

Everyone knew the country’s public school system was a mess — but nobody thought the government would try to fold up shop.

Earlier this year, the government announced a plan to begin a phased public-private partnership in education that could eventually see nearly all the country’s primary schools subcontracted to foreign for-profit companies. Supporters say it’s an exciting break from a failing status quo that harnesses technology and research to improve childhood learning outcomes. Detractors accuse the government of abdicating one of its most fundamental responsibilities.

The hybrid privatization plan, which has been described as one of the most expansive and ambitious anywhere in the world, calls for 3 percent of primary schools to be turned over to private companies during a pilot year beginning this fall. Fifty schools will be run by Bridge International Academies, an American for-profit company backed by the likes of Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates that builds and runs low-cost schools primarily in East Africa. As many as 70 more Liberian schools will be turned over to a host of other private operators. If the pilot is deemed a success, it will be scaled up to at least 300 more schools in September 2017. It could cover the country’s entire primary school system by 2020, according to the timeline set by the government.

Is this neocolonialism or a new spirit of philanthropy or both?

But the fear isn’t just that private companies are taking over what has traditionally been a government service. It’s that they will provide an inferior product. Critics like Angelo Gavrielatos of Education International, an international umbrella body representing education trade unions, say Bridge’s model of cheap schools and lightly trained instructors who use scripted, tablet-based lesson plans is a radical departure from established norms in the education field, one that is aimed more at reducing costs than providing an appropriate learning environment for children.

“Their business plan is predicated on the employment of unqualified staff delivering a highly scripted standardized system, word-for-word off a tablet,” Gavrielatos said.

May counters that scripted lesson plans can still be engrossing for children: “When you watch Hamlet and it’s a great actor, would you say that’s rote?”

But even Werner admits that a Kenyan education official warned him that Bridge deviated from that country’s national curriculum and employed underqualified staff. “They were urging Bridge to better align with the national government, or else,” he said. “He gave me advice cautioning in terms of having a relationship with them.”

But Bridge says it achieves results. By using the technology on its tablets to monitor teacher performance in real time, it can support those who flounder and hold them accountable when necessary. Studies it commissioned purportedly show marked increases in learning outcomes for students in its schools. Although Bridge is a for-profit company, May describes it as a “mission-driven business” that is primarily concerned with providing kids with better opportunities, not turning a big profit.

Several members of the Democratic party’s platform committee sent me the draft of the platform. It is linked below so we can all reflect on what is being considered. This is a draft so it can be changed. Please read it and send your best ideas.

The section on education contains a lot of reformer lingo. Zip codes. Options. Accountability. The Democratic party favors “high academic standards.” Who favors “low academic standards?” The party opposes too much testing; who favors too much testing?

The rhetoric about “high academic standards” brings echoes of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to see a statement about meeting the needs of all children? Or ensuring that all schools have the staff and resources they need for the children they enroll?

And then there’s the section on charters. The party is against for-profit charters: so far, so good, but how about saying that a Clinton administration will stop federal funding of for-profit schools and colleges, because they are low-quality and predatory, with profit as their top priority?

The party favors “high quality charters.” Does that mean corporate charter chains like KIPP, Achievement First, and Success Academy? Probably. How about a statement opposing corporate replacements for neighborhood public schools? How about a statement insisting that charters accept English language learners and students with disabilities at the same rate as the neighborhood public school? How about a statement opposing draconian disciplinary policies and suspensions?

How about a clear statement that the Clinton administration will no longer permit school closings as academic punishment? How about a clear signal that the Clinton administration intends to protect and strengthen our nation’s essential traditional public schools, which serve all children. How about signaling a new direction for federal education policy, one that promises to support schools and educators, not to punish them.

Please read and share yours reactions. I will pass ideas along to platform committee members.

See the entire pdf here.

This story is shocking. Former officials in the Obama administration, once in charge of regulating predatory the for-profit higher education industry, now want in on the action themselves. Their financier is Obama’s best friend. The story was written by Michael Stratford and Kimberly Hefling. Please read this report as background for what follows.

Mercedes Schneider wrote about it here.

She writes:


Obama’s close friend, Marty Nesbitt, and others are seeking US Department of Education (USDOE) approval to purchase the fiscally-troubled for-profit, University of Phoenix. Nesbitt and former Deputy Secretary of Education, Tony Miller, run a Chicago-based private equity firm, Vistria Group.

Vistria Group is part of a small collective that wants to purchase University of Phoenix, and the for-profit school’s parent organization, Apollo Education, is apparently all in.

USDOE approval would keep the student loan and Pell grant bucks coming to University of Phoenix– which happens to be the subject of three state attorneys general as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The price tag for Vistria et al. appears to be $1.1 billion. As it stands, University of Phoenix receives $2 billion annually in public money.

If University of Phoenix goes under, then all of those student loans are forgiven– which means taxpayers foot the bill. If Vistria et al. acquire University of Phoenix, then the goings-on at the school become private. No more requiring that that public be made aware of the salaries of the school’s executives, or that the public be made aware of litigation against the school, or that the public know about pending investigations.

The story was originally posted at PoliticoPro, which is an expensive subscription; fortunately, it is now available for free at politico.com. Here is an excerpt from the original story:

As the Obama administration cracks down on for-profit colleges, three former officials working on behalf of an investment firm run by President Barack Obama’s best friend have staged a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the Education Department to green-light a purchase of the biggest for-profit of them all — the University of Phoenix.

The investors include a private equity firm founded and run by longtime Obama friend Marty Nesbitt and former Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller. The firm, Chicago-based Vistria Group, has mounted a charm offensive on Capitol Hill to talk up the proposed sale of the troubled for-profit education giant, which receives more than $2 billion a year in taxpayer money but is under investigation by three state attorneys general and the FTC.

What stands out about the proposed deal is that several key players are either close to top administration officials, including the president himself, or are former administration insiders — especially Miller, who was part of the effort to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges at the very agency now charged with approving the ownership change. For-profit college officials have likened those rules to a war on the industry, and blame the administration for contributing to their declining enrollments and share prices.

The proposed sale carries high stakes for taxpayers, students and investors: The University of Phoenix’s financial stability may depend on the $1.1 billion acquisition. If the company were to fail, more than 160,000 students could be displaced and the government would be on the hook for hundreds of millions in student loans.

But the investors’ effort to seek Education Department approval of the school’s ownership change also raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

“There is at least a taste of unseemliness involved in this,” said Mark Schneider, a former top education official under President George W. Bush. “They regulate it. They drive the price down. …They are buying it for pennies on the dollar.”

Vistria Group said it isn’t seeking special treatment. “We expect the Department to evaluate this proposed transaction on the merits,” the company said in a statement.

Vistria is part of a consortium of investors involved in the proposed acquisition, which has already won over shareholders of the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group. But now the investors need the Education Department and the school’s accreditors to sign off on the ownership change to keep the federal money flowing — most of it in the form of student loans and Pell Grants.

With those decisions looming, Miller and at least one other former Obama insider have met with staff to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), looking to reassure some of the loudest critics of for-profit colleges in the president’s own party, several Senate aides confirmed to POLITICO. Those lawmakers have pushed Obama’s Education Department to be even tougher on for-profit colleges.

Miller has also met with staff members working for other committee members, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), as well as with Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee. Nesbitt was not part of those Capitol Hill meetings, according to the aides….

But the specter of former insiders pushing the sale of a company in an industry that has long been in the administration’s crosshairs is not lost on critics. For seven years, the Obama administration has waged a crackdown on poor quality and predatory practices at many for-profit colleges, with the president himself excoriating some schools for “making out like a bandit” with federal money, but saddling students with big debts and leaving them unprepared for good jobs. He did not name the schools.

“It’s ironic that a former senior official at the Department of Education — an agency that has intentionally targeted and sought to dismantle the for-profit college industry — would now take the reins at the country’s largest for-profit college,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who leads the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s higher education subcommittee….

The sale price, which shareholders approved last month after initially balking at a lower price, is considered a bargain by some industry observers. The day Obama was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2009, the company’s stock closed at $86.54 per share. Today, it’s trading at around $9, although a recovering economy, unfavorable media coverage and the for-profit industry’s general slump have also contributed to that drop.

Some Senate Democrats said they are also uneasy with the investors’ plan to take the university private, which means it would no longer have to publicly disclose information such as executive compensation, lawsuits or when it’s a target of investigations. Those details are useful to prospective students, they say, at a time when the school faces inquiries from both state and federal authorities.

“Essentially, a company that receives more than $2 billion annually from federal taxpayers — nearly 80 percent of its revenue — is going dark, and it’s happening at a time when the University of Phoenix has come under increased scrutiny from state and federal regulators,” Durbin wrote in a March letter to the Education Department.

Republicans think that the Obama officials drove the price down by their regulatory actions, then moved in to buy it at a bargain price.

This transaction is unsavory. It should be stopped. The conflicts of interests and self-dealing are abhorrent.

This is one of the strangest stories of the week or year. Back in 2008, a group of parents at the Agora Cyber Charter school in Pennsylvania began questioning the financial affairs of the corporation that owned it. Agora was paying rent and management fees to another company, the Cynwyd Group, which June Brown, the founder of Agora, also owned.

In January 2009, the owners of Agora filed suit against the parents:

As parents tried to gather records and sort out the business relationships at Agora, they circulated emails expressing their concerns. They also complained to the state Education Department when the school did not provide information they requested.

In the suit filed in January 2009, Brown and Cynwyd Group charged that the parents had made statements that defamed and libeled Brown.

The complaint also alleged that the parents’ group had tried to interfere with Cynwyd’s contractual relationship with Agora “by spreading untruths about Dr. Brown and by implying that she had improperly used public funds.”

Brown and Cynwyd sought more than $150,000 in damages from the six parents for libel, slander, and civil conspiracy.

The parents denied the allegations and said they had merely sought information about the taxpayer-funded school their children attended.

Brown said the parents had defamed her and she had to defend her reputation. The parents had trouble paying for legal representation.

The suit dragged on, but in 2012, “federal grand jurors indicted Brown and charged her with defrauding Agora and her other charters of $6.7 million.”

The case against the parents remained active, to be addressed after the conclusion of the criminal trial. Brown’s criminal trial ended in a hung jury in 2014, and a retrial was canceled in 2015 after Brown’s lawyer said that she suffered from dementia. So, she escaped legal action, kept the money, but the parents were in limbo, still facing the charges of defamation that Brown had lodged against them.

Earlier this month, the charges were dismissed. The parents were relieved. One had used the family’s mortgage payment to pay a lawyer and lost her home fighting the lawsuit.

It does seem unjust that the parents were dragged through legal proceedings for more than seven years, accused of defaming Brown, even while she was under federal indictment for defrauding her charters of millions of dollars.

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