For-Profit Charters: Whose Interest is Being Served?

money-40603_1280Lots of money easily available can lead to abuse, and it did–over and over again in Miami.  It is so much money that it may be time to follow New York’s lead and ban for-profit education management companies.  In this post we look at Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit education management firm.

Its schools are consolidated into at least four non-profit entities that allow Academica to operate legally as a contractor to its own schools. Their 100 schools are organized into the  Mater, Somerset, Pinecrest and Doral networks.  They also manage several Ben Gamla schools as well as others.  Academica operates in five states plus D.C. including Florida, Utah, Texas, Nevada, California.

The Doral and Mater charter governing boards keep appearing in the Miami Dade Inspector General reports.  There is a lot of money involved and continued poor governance citations.  You can follow the money.  Do these schools do more with less?

Continue reading

Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness

by Pat Drago and Sue Legg

foggy-545838_1280

 

This is not an easy walk into the woods, but you need to know where the funding for charter schools comes from and where it goes. It is your money.

There is a lot money to be made and lost with charter schools, and it is public tax dollars. As usual, independent schools tend to lose it, and large charter management chains come out on top.  This is not always to the children’s benefit.  How does this happen? We looked at the audits and found huge disparities in facility and fee expenditures. This meant that instructional parts of the budgets were reduced accordingly.

We wanted to know how these facilities were financed. If State funds were creating opportunities to make real estate venture capitalists wealthy, we wanted to know how this worked. Unfortunately, public dollars that go to private companies are hard to see. The lack of transparency for their financial records provides only vague outlines. We did find some clues by looking at how facilities are financed.

We wondered what other states were doing to ensure that state money was allocated for instruction and not for profit making ventures. We found some answers. As always, different approaches have their share of unintended consequences. As we groped in the darkness, there was a glimmer of light. The brave among you are invited to go down this path with us.

Continue reading

Sweeping the Money Under the Rug?

Remember the post on  Profit Trumps Public Interest?  It was the one the National Council of State Legislatures put out on for-profit education management companies.  We discovered that National Heritage Academies had some serious problems.   Propublica published a follow-up article on the for-profit National Heritage Academies.

payoff

Where Does the Money Go?

The Michigan State Board of Education has now asked the legislature to outlaw “sweep contracts” to for-profit companies, but the legislator did not listen.   Continue reading