The $800,000 that a couple made off with after the NorthStar charter school closure even embarrassed some rich charter school operators. So when a top charter school lobbyists is critical of another charter school’s grab of taxpayer cash, there’s obviously a there..there.
“The isolated incident tarnishes the entire movement,” said Chris Moya, a lobbyist for Charter Schools USA, a charter management company that runs schools across the state. “The good actors can’t afford to buy away the amount of press that falls upon us and the entire movement when something like NorthStar happens.”
Moya was ironically testifying on behalf of a House bill which would force public schools to turn over on demand to outfits like his client any unused or recently closed facilities. And get this: for free. No wonder he’s bemoaning “bad actors” which tarnishes the entire movement.” But another one of Moya’s “bad actors” out there emerged last week – and it’s someone much closer to his employers than he would like. A story in last Friday’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune revealed that the local governing board of a charter school “voted Feb. 15 to secede, accusing Arlington, Va.-based Imagine Schools of siphoning public tax dollars for its management fees and stunting the local school’s growth.”
The attorney representing Imagine Schools is Shawn Arnold. Along with his wife, Melissa Gross-Arnold, they establish on their web site that they are “the preferred vendors of legal services to the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS).” The parents and local board in Sarasota are facing off against the powerful for-profit charter school industry.
Most Floridians don’t realize that there are two separate charter school lobbying groups. The Arnolds represent the group, Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, consisting of the Academica-Somerset network, Mavericks, Imagine and Rep. Seth McKeel’s charter schools. The other group, the Florida Charter School Alliance, serves the interests of Charter Schools USA and KIPP schools and is staffed by those close to Jeb Bush. The group closely aligned with Bush is newer and may have been formed when it became clear that charter schools in the other group were creating the sort of “bad actor” drama to which Moya testified.
At any rate, save McKeel’s, all these charter schools make their money through charging hefty management fees. The Arnold’s entry here is an exercise in protecting those. How long will it take for the phony outrage over the two Northstar grifters who bilked taxpayers to be seen in the same light as the outrageous fees these management companies receive? Especially when it continues to become obvious they have been making so much that they can afford top dollar lobbyists and lawyers to protect their interests – and not those of children in places like Sarasota.