Paying to Play? Outsourcing Public Education (and Dollars) to Out-of-State Charter Chains

In 2012, Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, and David Raynor of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote an article entitled “How companies can turn a profit running public schools.” It should be required reading for public school advocates.

In it they discussed how charter school chains are allowed to operate in North Carolina and how some “chains” can actually make great profit from them using NC taxpayer money.

They also specifically profiled the opinion of one Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who has received campaign contributions from some of the bigger players in the charter school industry.

Now in 2019 with over 200 charter schools set to be open for the 2020-2021 school year, it should be noted that over 40 of them are being operated by for-profit charter school chains. Three of biggest chains are from out-of-state and are very much established in NC with multiple schools and one just got its first charter school in the state approved.

It will not be the only school it seeks in the state to open.

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And there is a fifth waiting in the wings that just had an application sent back to the Charter School Advisory Board that is based in Arizona.

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The map above shows those five charter school chains that have and are seeking to (further) sink their teeth in North Carolina.

1. Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale. It is run by Jonathan Hage whose political contributions to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous.

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates. Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

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  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He is the national chairman of ALEC.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations. It is also worth noting that Forest is also on the state board of education and is ramping up for a run at the governor’s mansion in 2020.

2. Team CFA is based in Oregon. John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed an attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson that was recently given a green light with Dr. Eric Hall as the superintendent who since has gone to Florida.

Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Bryan in NC. Please remember, this is only a screen shot of a much larger list. Notice that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is on that list.

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Saine and Tillman are on that list as well.

3. National Heritage Academies is based in Michigan in the same state where Betsy DeVos began her quest to privatize public education. They’ve enabled each other. National Heritage Academies has 11 schools in North Carolina. One of them is Greensboro Academy. On the board of that school is Alan Hawkes who sits on the Charter School Advisory Board of North Carolina. That’s convenient.

National Heritage Academies was founded by J.C. Huizenga who is friends with DeVos. He also gives largely to candidates who help his business – even in NC.

Again from followthemoney.org for the profile of Huizenga.

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There’s Forest (and Tillman) again! And there is Hawkes mentioned above who is still on the Charter School Advisory Board of North Carolina.

4. Doral Academy is actually part of a larger charter school group. It is operated by Academica on behalf of Somerset Academy which is a charter management company.

Academica is run by a man named Fernando Zulueta. Plenty has been written about the charter school empire he has helped amass. From a Miami Herald feature from 2012:

Zulueta had reason to cheer. During the past 15 years, Zulueta and his brother, Ignacio, have built Academica into Florida’s largest and richest for-profit charter school management company, and one of the largest in the country. In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Academica runs more than 60 schools with $158 million in total annual revenue and more than 20,000 students — more pupils than 38 Florida school districts, records show.

That was seven years ago. It’s still growing and with the approval of Doral Academy in NC just yesterday, Zulueta now has a foothold in North Carolina. And Zulueta contributes a lot to political candidates.

Would be interesting to see if any in NC receive some of his money for campaigns in the 2020 cycle – maybe someone running for governor?

5. Glenn Way is the owner American Leadership Academy in Arizona. He has been in the NC news circles of late as he is trying to open a charter school in Wake County. His application was one of two who were declined by the SBE and sent back to the CSAB. That prompted Dan Forest to say in the meeting (as he sits on the NC SBE),

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a member of the state board, complained about the “stall tactics” he said were being used by opponents of those two charters. He said the delay is “punishing” the applicants who were already recommended for approval by the advisory board.

“We’re punishing them because other people aren’t going through the proper procedures and process that they have to go through and that we’re requiring of them to do,” Forest said. “I just want to make sure that the charter community and everybody else that’s engaged in this feels like they’re being treated fairly through this process.”

Would be interesting to see if any in NC receive some of his money for campaigns in the 2020 cycle – maybe someone running for governor?

Simply put, many NC lawmakers are outsourcing “public” education to out-of-state entities and paying for it with taxpayer money that should be going to the state’s public schools.

It should stop because the way it looks on paper, one could easily argue that many are “paying to play” in NC and profit off our public school students.

Actually, to say that they aren’t “paying to play” would be extreme ignorance which seems to be in abundance in Raleigh.

 

 

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