New evidence surfaces on charter school scam

FirstGradeClassRoomUnitedStates

CLEVELAND - New evidence that charter schools provide inferior education but lucrative opportunities to scam the public has surfaced in a report issued Wednesday.

The report, "Public Good vs. Private Profit: Imagine Schools, Inc. in Ohio" by Policy Matters, a highly respected research group based here, details operations of Imagine, the largest for-profit charter school management company in the U.S. The report's author, Piet van Lier, is a well-known journalist and writer on educational issues.

According to the report, Imagine runs 71 schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Its CEO, Dennis Bakke, former chairman of AES, a global electric power company, has been a long-time leader of efforts to privatize public education and a major contributor to John Kasich, Republican candidate for governor of Ohio. Bakke is also a member of "The Family," the right-wing Christian cult of prominent businessmen and politicians embroiled in scandals surrounding its "C Street spiritual haven" in Washington.

By law, charters to run taxpayer-funded schools in Ohio are issued only to nonprofit groups, but these groups are permitted to contract with private management companies, such as Imagine, to run the schools. Last year Gov. Ted Strickland attempted to ban this practice but was blocked by Republican legislators. The report shows that Imagine, with headquarters in Arlington, Va., takes 90-98 percent of the state funds provided to the 11 schools it runs in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton and Akron.

Since the 2005-2006 school year the performance of these schools has been dismal. The Ohio Department of Education has so far rated six Imagine-run schools. Five of the schools have received the lowest possible rating of "Academic Emergency," while one has gotten the slightly better rating of "Academic Watch." These ratings are "substantially worse" than nearby neighborhood public schools, the report charges.

Because of its poor performance Imagine is barred from opening new schools in Ohio under standards recently established by the Strickland administration.

Imagine has received $115.7 million in state and federal funds over the past five school years for its Ohio operations. It is actively seeking to increase enrollment to increase its public funding, although the report found that its academic performance has fallen as it increased its size.

The proportion of its funds spent on actual instruction is far below national standards, the report states. Teachers are paid less than in charter schools without for-profit management, and about half what union teachers in Cleveland public schools receive.

On the other hand the proportion spent on rent and maintenance paid to Schoolhouse Finance, Imagine's real estate subsidiary, is twice the national standard. In one case, the report cites a church building Imagine acquired in Fort Wayne, Ind., where it charged its charter $90,000 a month, eight to ten times the appraised value.

The company also charges excessive amounts to lease equipment and pay development costs and siphons profits through complex real estate deals involving land acquisition, building construction, sales and leasing arrangements with investment funds.

This has been the target of criticism in other states, and prompted Texas Board of Education member David Bradley to ask if the company was in the real estate or charter school business.

Charter schools supposedly operate under governing boards selected by their sponsors. However, even this cozy arrangement is too much for Imagine. In a 2008 memo CEO Bakke made clear his view that the schools were his private domain and administrators should disregard appointed governing boards.

Board members at one school near Columbus resigned in protest over this policy, especially after failing to get answers about over-priced lease agreements.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations including banning for-profit management companies from running charter schools and guaranteeing the independence and authority of governing boards.

The full report is available on the Policy Matters Ohio website.

Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:First_Grade_Class_Room_United_States.jpg

 

 

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  • Down with flipping' charters.

    • No computers!
    • Picture books?!?!?
    • No playgrounds?!?!
    • Located in office parks or old Motel 6's?!!??! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?

    What snake oil salesmen sold this operation to the government?!?!?!? ALL FOR-PROFIT EDUCATION MANAGEMENT COMPANIES NEED TO BE OUTLAWED BEFORE THEY GUT THE EDUCATION SYSTEM ENTIRELY!!!!!!

    Posted by Sharleen, 02/04/2013 11:42pm (2 years ago)

  • The title of this article says it all. What a scam! Education has always been the foundation of the successful developed nation and key to every individual’s lives. To see that profiteering has come into the picture at the expense of education is really heart wrenching! Profit making and Education is clearly a mismatch to begin with, as every child should have the right to good education and their development should not be hampered by such organizations!

    Regards,
    Claire Hodges

    Posted by Claire Hodges, 08/05/2011 12:20am (3 years ago)

  • Here's your for-profit Charter School.

    Pay teachers less, pay administration more. No over-site, dismal performance, higher costs to the community. Screw the kids, there's a buck to be made.



    Posted by Kent, 12/09/2010 8:02pm (4 years ago)

  • Someone needs to be investigation RCS - Roxboro Community School's principal.

    This article is nothing compared to what's going on here.

    Posted by Whistleblower, 11/07/2010 4:41pm (4 years ago)

  • I JUST PULLED MY DAUGHTER OUT OF AN IMAGINE SCHOOL- LOCATION WILSON RD. COLUMBUS OHIO

    THE CLASSES ARE OVER CROWDED BECAUSE ALL THEY SEEM TO CARE ABOUT IS MONEY!!!

    MY DAUGHTER WAS SPIT ON AND CALLED A B*#CH
    AND THE PRINCIPAL JUST SAID KIDS WILL BE KIDS??????? THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT INCREASING ENROLLMENT TO PROFIT , SADLY IT AINT ABOUT THE CHILDREN I LEARNED THE HARD WAY...

    Posted by DEANNA COOPER, 10/29/2010 12:24am (4 years ago)

  • I worked at a DC PCS called Capital City. The Head of School severely abused funds by hiring her boyfriend for a position, without ever posting it publicly, did the same thing by hiring a friend over lunch in Paris for the Director of Development position, paid her family's data processing company to process loads of supposed data, and reimbursing herself for 100% cell phone usage - but not offering other staff the same privilege - and paid herself over $120k ($40k more than the next highest paid person)....and did I mention that she appeared maybe 2 hours a day and somehow avoided ever presenting any projects the board required of her. Unfortunately, the board gave her very liberal reign and the ones who objected ended up resigning, after they presented an in-depth report from staff members about her lack of leadership capacity that her friends on the board tried to roadblock.

    Posted by Inside Knowledge, 07/20/2010 1:33pm (4 years ago)

  • I can also see from the photo that they use that bogus reading system, where the kids get no instruction but it's a free for all.

    Posted by NH, 05/19/2010 10:21am (4 years ago)

  • Great report...I hope the pro-charter schools people, including those in the Obama administration, take heed. It's one thing to attempt alternatives to the usual public school management, it's another to embrace the charter schools or vouchers as the path for reform. Small schools, smaller class sizes, increase teacher pay, make sure music, art, sports, language and science and special needs classes are a part of the program are all critical to reforming public education and making every child successful. This can all be done under the public school umbrella. No need to privatize.

    Posted by Terrie, 05/16/2010 10:33pm (4 years ago)

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