Georgis columnist Dick Yarborough says “there about money, politics and influence peddling.”
A sharp-eyed reader suggested I might want to see what’s happening in Florida with their charter schools, and I think I’ve broken the code. It’s not about the kids. It’s about money and politics and influence-peddling. Now, things are beginning to make sense.
The Miami Herald did an in-depth study on charter school operations in Florida in December. There, charter schools are a $400 million business that has turned into one of the region’s fastest-growing industries, “backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians” and “rife with insider deals and potential conflicts of interest.”
The Herald says Florida lawmakers have chipped away at local school districts’ ability to monitor the activities of charter school managers until they are virtually without any government oversight, even though the state donates $6,000 in taxpayer dollars for every student enrolled.
As for the mantra that “parents will be in control,” the Herald reports that some charter school managers have rendered governing boards “irrelevant” by ignoring their recommendations.
In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the Herald reported, almost two-thirds of charter schools are run by management companies, which charge fees ranging from 5 percent to 18 percent of school income — income that can exceed $1 million a year. Further, the paper says, many management companies also control the school’s land and buildings, and collect as much as 25 percent of a school’s revenue in lease payments.
During senate deliberations, opponents of parent trigger, frequently expressed concerns for and examples of charter schools profit motivations and margins. These went unhallenged, save a few very half-hearted mumblings about “not having a problem with profit.” The “choice, “status quo,” and “failing schools” narrative lost to sober reporting from places like the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel. Rhetoric didn’t trump reality this time.