POINT: Put students before profits
By Carol Burris
Today, more than 1,100 charter schools are run by for-profit corporations. Whether those corporations are large national chains or small local companies running one or two schools, they invest in slick marketing campaigns to get children and tax dollars through the door.
The public is often shocked to find out that for-profit-run charters use federal dollars to skim funds at taxpayers’ expense. According to the most stringent interpretation of federal law, for-profit charters cannot be federally subsidized. Title 20 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires K-12 schools to be nonprofit organizations to receive federal funding. However, clever for-profit operators create workarounds using nonprofit facades to evade the law.
Last year, the Network for Public Education dug deep into the for-profit operations of charter schools. The schemes we discovered ranged from elaborate to unsophisticated, depending on the operator’s creativity. Worst of all, we saw how for-profits shortchange kids to line their pockets.
We uncovered scandalous examples of self-dealing, like Reginald Barr, who with his wife and daughter own the management, personnel and real estate companies contracting with their Arizona-based AmeriSchools. They also sit on the nonprofit board that governs the charters, ensuring whatever rent or fees they want are approved and passed right into their accounts.