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Imagine A Charter School Management Focused On Education, Not On Profit

While charter management at the NYC Charter School Center and the New York Charter School Association continue to offer an unqualified defense of for profit charter management organizations [CMOs] and extravagant AIG and Goldman Sachs type salaries for New York charter executives, all extracted from public money intended for education, today’s New York Times has an in-depth, page one story with the latest revelations of profiteering in the charter school industry.

The subject of the Times’ article is Imagine Schools, now the largest for profit CMO in the United States. [On its web page, Imagine says it "will operate as a nonprofit organization," but as the Times points out, "Imagine is not a nonprofit group, and it has so far failed to gain status as a charity from the I.R.S."]

“Regulators in some states have found that Imagine has elbowed the charter holders out of virtually all school decision making — hiring and firing principals and staff members, controlling and profiting from school real estate, and retaining fees under contracts that often guarantee Imagine’s management in perpetuity,” the Times reports. “The arrangements, they say, allow Imagine to use public money with little oversight.”

The Times reports an e-mail by Imagine CEO Dennis Bakke in which he “cautioned his executives against giving boards of schools the ‘misconception’ that they ‘are responsible for making big decisions about budget matters, school policies, hiring of the principal and dozens of other matters.’ Instead, he wrote, ‘It is our school, our money and our risk, not theirs’.” Not exactly the perspective of a not for profit educator, is it?

One New York City charter school, Bronx Academy of Promise, was founded in partnership with Imagine Schools, only to have the board of the school break their contract after one year. “It was rather baffling, but as a management company, they weren’t providing any management services,” a person who has worked with the school told the Times anonymously for fear of retaliation. “With the exception of payroll processing and some accounting support, it wasn’t really clear what they were doing for the school.” And yet Imagine was taking in nearly 15¢ of every dollar of public money sent to the school. [Last month, teachers at Bronx Academy of Promise organized with the UFT.]

Imagine charter schools across the country are finding that funds that should have been going into classrooms were being diverted into exorbitant management fees, usurious loans and real estate deals with Imagine as landlord.

And still the NYC Charter School Center and the New York Charter School Association answer the “which side are you on?” refrain of the classic union song, emphatically, with the side of for-profit charter management organizations.

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5 Comments:

  • 1 canwetalk
    · Apr 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Leo,
    I noticed that on the Imagine Schools’ website they have NYS as one of the states having IS charter schools. Yet, when I click the NYS link to view these NYS IS charter schools, nothing is listed. Why was NYS placed on their map as if no listing of IS charter schools exist? Is there a reason why IS would have NYS on their map? Just curious to know why.
    http://www.imagineschools.com/school-profile.aspx

  • 2 Phyllis C. Murray
    · Apr 25, 2010 at 4:47 am

    “Curiouser and curiouser!”said Alice of her adventure down the Rabbit Hole. And as UFTers walk down the path which explores charter schools, we might feel the same way.

    The following article in the Daily News states:Nepotism, conflict of interest find a home at charter schools Apr 22, 2010 … A Daily News investigation has found some charters hiring wives, husbands and children of school officials and board trustees as vendors, …
    http://www.nydailynews.com/…/2010-04-22_charters_family_plans_nepotism_conflict_of_interest_find_a_home_at_privately_run.html

    Phyllis C. Murray,Chapter Leader District 8

  • 3 Leo Casey
    · Apr 25, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    The confusion is probably around the Bronx Academy of Promise, which was originally an Imagine school. Although the board of the school has ended its contract with the CMO, apparently Imagine has begun litigation against the school over that action.

  • 4 jacob
    · Apr 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    15 cents on every dollar? They take a 15% cut? Do you have a source for that? Thanks

  • 5 Leo Casey
    · Apr 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    It is right in the New York Times story, Jacob:

    “In New York, the Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School agreed to pay Imagine 12 percent of its revenue as a fee, and an additional 2.5 percent was charged to ensure Imagine would extend a loan to the school should it need one.”