Are the large predators hanging around Florida charter schools reptiles or humans?

Over the past few months, reporter for weekly Broward/Palm Beach New Times Lisa Rab has been uncovering all sorts of unsavory details about charter schools run by Mavericks in Education, starting with a long feature at the end of December asking how Mavericks was profiting from poor children in South Florida and how Joe Biden’s brother Frank came to be involved.1 There have been some other sordid stories Rab has revealed about Maverick operations, but my favorite is the response Frank Biden gave after the first story.

“We’re not profiting from our schools. Anybody with half a brain can figure that out,” [Frank Biden] says. “We remain sustainable as a result of our accurate and predictable location and our buildings.”

In other words, Maverick’s main business is real estate, using charter schools and the state of Florida as the chumps paying their way.

Lo and behold! when the St. Pete Tampa Bay Times education staff looked into the operations of Imagine-run charter schools in my area of the world, they discovered a similar pattern. A new charter school in Pasco County just signed a lease promising to pay Imagine more than three quarters of a million dollars per year.2 Dear readers, this is the razor-blade and inkjet-cartridge business model. And it’s not necessary: as a small group of charters in the area called Plato Academy pointed out, charter schools can be run without money being sucked up by profiteers.

One more sign that “charter schools” is a broad category: some folks start charters to make money, and others start charters to make a difference.3

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Notes

  1. Before you complain about the title of this entry, I have a reptile at home–and a sweet-tempered one–so don’t complain that I’m doing our scaly friends an injustice. []
  2. Chris Irvine, Florida’s handing you the next “What’s Up with That?” segment! []
  3. And one more sign that good reporting in education will be sorely needed for many years to come: kudos to Lisa Rab, Ron Matus, and Jeff Solochek. []