May 15, 2024

Mercedes Schneider: TX: HISD’s Mike Miles Using Texas Tax Dollars to Subsidize Colorado Charter Debt

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An extraordinary story has been revealed this week, uncovered by Spectrum News. Mercedes Schneider reports the highlights, adds some detail, and includes all the links you need to follow this. Reposted with permission

This is a profound story based on the investigative journalism of Spectrum News.

Here’s the short of it:

Former Dallas Independent School District (DISD) superintendent, Mike Miles, is now superintendent of Houston Independent School District (HISD). During his time between these two stints, Miles opened three charter schools in Colorado under the auspices of nonprofitThird Future Schools (TFS).

Mike Miles

The Colorado schools are in trouble financially. One has since closed.

Coperni 2 closure doc

Meanwhile, under Miles, TFS has opened charters in Texas, including Sam Houston Elementary (Midland), Ector College Prep (Odessa), and Mendez Middle School (Austin).

According to the Spectrum investigation, the TFS Texas charters are in the red and are mysteriously paying roughly 40 percent of the whole budget on undisclosed “admin” costs. Further investigation shows that the Texas money is being sent to support the struggling TFS Colorado schools. The explanation from TFS is that monies to the TFS schools support TFS schools “in general,” ignoring the fact that Texas taxpayers are actually paying to support schools in another state.

The 8-minute Spectrum video details Miles’ scheme.

Here’s how the video begins, as narrated by Brett Shipp of Spectrum News:

[As] Texas public schools are battling huge budget deficits and having to make massive cuts, Spectrum News has discovered millions of Texas public school dollars being diverted out of state. What’s more, the man believed to be responsible– Houston public schools superintendent Mike Miles– his old charter schools in Colorado are in need of cash.

In schools all across Texas, dedicated teachers and panicked parents speak out in passion and frustration.

One of the largest budget deficits in the state, Houston Independent School District (HISD), where newly-appointed superintendent Mike Miles has called for dramatic cuts to offset a $450M budget shortfall. Miles was appointed by Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner, Mike Morath, to take over and turn around the struggling school district last summer (June 2023). Ten years before he took over at Houston ISD, Miles spent three years as superintendent at Dallas ISD.

When he left Dallas in 2015, Miles started three charter schools in Colorado, called Third Future Schools. According to both internal school records and the nationally-recognized school rating agency, SchoolDigger, all three schools have since struggled with performance, enrollment, and finances. The records provided to us by TFS through open records requests also reveals Miles was forced to close one of his schools (Coperni 2) last summer due to declining enrollment, leaving that school with $5M in unpaid bond debt. the school’s debt was discussed at a Third Future Schools board meeting via Zoom last summer after Miles had taken over at Houston ISD. Yet there was Miles, at the meeting, acting as a consultant; according to payment records, Miles received $40,000 consulting for TFS last year (2023).

Watch as Miles urges his old board of directors to find the money and pay the debt:

(Miles’ voice) “It’s now becoming untenable. We have to subsidize it to the tune of maybe $500K a year if it only has 180 kids or so. I think the time is right to do what the administration is asking to do.”

In 2020, around the time his financial troubles were beginning in Colorado, Miles began expanding his charter school network to Texas. … But by the end of the 2023 school year, as he was taking over in Houston, Miles’ three Texas schools were nearly $2.7M in the red.

So, why were Miles’ new Texas schools losing money?

Here’s where they mysterious millions in “administrative costs” comes in.

Watch the video for details.

Fox26 Houston also has a freshly-published account based upon Spectrum’s reporting.

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