Dick Yarborough reporting last week included this tidbit about Charter USA’s attempt to open a school in Cherokee County, Georgia:
In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the (Miami) 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.
Think that can’t happen it Georgia?
Let’s take a look at Cherokee County, where the school board turned down a charter school application from for-profit Charter Schools USA headquartered in — you guessed it — Florida. The petition sounds eerily like some of the deals reported in the Miami Herald. It proposed that Red Apple Development, affiliated with CSUSA, purchase the school facility, then lease it back to CSUSA. The for-profit charter school would use tax funds to pay debt service and maintenance on the property and Red Apple would retain all the benefits of ownership.
The board’s rejection didn’t sit well with the local legislative delegation. In redrawing school districts as mandated every 10 years, the delegation seems intent on placing two incumbent board members in districts with two other incumbents, even though the guidelines suggest not doing that. It so happens that the two were vocal opponents of the charter school petition. A coincidence? I think not.
This is nothing new to Floridians who’ve been watching these shenanigans for awhile. Senate proponents of the parent trigger bill, SB 1718 didn’t have a response for opponent senators when they were asked about such shaky dealings playing out here. Here’s the link to the Miami Herald report that Yarborough referred to.
Florida lawmakers target school boards here, too. Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, introduced a bill last year which would end their salaries. Big charter school operators like CSUSA can go over the heads of local schools boards when the are rejected to a hand-picked state board. CSUSA successfully had an Orange county rejection overturned last month.
Tennessee newspaper publisher, Bill Paschal made note of these goings on and also of a Tennessee bill which would end local oversight of charter schools all together.
Still believe all the smoke and mirrors that the charter school movement is about “choice” in education? Baloney. This is about nothing more than politicians and their pals looking to get your money in their pockets. That’s why charter lobbyists have been spending so much on this legislation.
If, along the way, the charter school proponents could claim to improve education, we might not have an argument. But lo and behold: The most recent study on the topic finds that existing charter schools in Georgia, as a whole, perform no better than public schools overall – and graduation rates from charters actually are slightly worse.
Because they can’t prove charters are better, the only explanation for the urgency in pushing a constitutional amendment to allow them without local electoral oversight is the politicians’ never-ending need to reward their friends in return for a little back-scratching.
Charter school’s legislative handmaidens – predominately republican – never tout their subtle efforts to end local control of schools as it would draw the ire of a major base in tea party voters. But a pattern becomes clear in these three southern states. A key part of the privatization agenda is too eliminate local control of schools. They want education decison-making to be made in state capitals by unelected boards filled with political appointees. This is high-level hypocrisy coming from a party who are looking to make political hay against democrat Senator Bill Nelson for Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board.