Jeff Bryant: How for-profit charter schools open the door for private investors to exploit public education
Education journalist for Our Schools Jeff Bryant appears at Alternet with a stunning story of how private schools have become a tool for investors, much like the for-profit jail business. In one particular example, Bryant traces the history of the highly profitable K12 and its founder Ron Packard. After a string of legal problems with K12, Packard decided to move on.
But as Packard disengaged from one troubled education enterprise, he started another with a financial partner that would provide the capital to quickly scale up.
As Education Week reported in 2014, Packard’s new company, Pansophic Learning, included a partnership with a holding company, Safanad Education, a subsidiary of Safanad Limited, a New York- and Dubai-based real estate and investment firm. Packard and Safanad spent an unknown sum to purchase part of K12 Inc.’s assets, mostly in higher education, and acquire an international brick-and-mortar private school. The two entrepreneurs were “on the hunt for acquisitions,” according to Education Week.
Initially, Packard and Pansophic Learning kept a low profile until, in 2016, a visit by then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump drew attention to a Cleveland, Ohio, brick-and-mortar charter school “that usually escapes notice,” reported the Plain Dealer, a Cleveland newspaper.
According to the Plain Dealer, the school, the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, was one of 27 schools in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio that had been recently acquired by Accel Schools, a new for-profit network of charter schools owned and operated by Pansophic Learning.
Packard is listed as the CEO of both Pansophic Learning and Accel Schools. Two other C-suite executives of both Pansophic Learning and Accel Schools are COO Maria Szalay and CTO Eric Waller. Pansophic Learning and Accel Schools also have an identical street address in McLean, Virginia.
Prior to the news about Trump visiting its school, Accel Schools had been “amassing an education empire” in Ohio, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.