Archive for the ‘CMO’ Tag

A school for the kids: It’s still calling me….   Leave a comment

You know how you have this one thing you really, really wanna do? But no matter how well planned your plan is, road-blocks and obstacles always seem to find their way in your way. Sometimes the plan is so grand and the vision so intense that you can’t sleep or you find yourself drawn to it at weird hours of the day.  There may have even been a time (or five) where you thought: “To hell with this; it’s a waste of my time. I could be doing XYZ with those 16 hours I spend researching, writing, making phone calls, etc.” Surely, I can’t be the only person who has felt that way at some point or another, right?

When I get to feeling that way, I start thinking about Langston Hughes‘A Dream Deferred’ poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

It may sound simple, but that poem provides me with some motivation. Why? Because I don’t want to ever get to the point where I sit around thinking, ‘I wonder what would have happened if….’ Life is too short and precious to be filled with ifs. (Can I get an ‘Amen?’) Well, my dream was to open a Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I know there are many people out there who are against charter schools, but for some of us, they are our only option. I will add that I am against these faux, non-profit predators organizations opening-up schools in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods, promising parents that their kids will succeed and go to college. Hell, depending on your definition of ‘succeed’ anyone can promise that. Furthermore, I can take a bus load of kids to a college campus, let them step foot on the campus and then proclaim that they went to college. Just when we thought the last thing our communities needed was a liquor store on every corner, but I digress.

Our organization is truly a grassroots group, made-up of parents (Black, White, Latino, etc.), teachers, and community members. We had the passion, purpose, vision, and research bases covered. We had no idea we’d be expected to turn water to wine raise a ridiculously large sum of money in such a short time. We were all discouraged, and rightly so I do believe. No such demands were placed on other groups. That is when I decided to walk away (after I raised more than my fair share of hell, of course). So when I learned of the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling on the Charter Commission, here is what I thought initially: ‘Like I always say, God don’t like ugly.’ And by ‘ugly’ I mean the way our group was treated as well as how other grassroots groups were dismissed because they did not have the name recognition of EMO/CMO groups, or because their boards actually reflected the communities they planned to serve. Yep, that’s how it went down. Even uglier, then-State School Superintendent Kathy Cox chose not to address the issues. Charter Commission members ignored emails, as did the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Yep, those organizations created to help charter school developers turned their backs on us. They turned their backs on our kids. I guess because our school model was not controversial enough to garner national attention, we were not worthy of their support or even an offering of mediation. Ok. I see you. But now the entire (education) community sees you and your obvious lack of research and knowledge of the law, even though the individual responsible for drafting the language has a law degree and graduated from TFA. Laughable, but I digress.

So, this whole experience/desire to open a school with a well-developed arts program is coming full-circle now. As I was speaking with a student, who is also a single parent, I learned about the Arete Scholars Fund. As it turns out, people and businesses that owe taxes to the state of Georgia can donate those funds to a scholarship fund to pay tuition at a private school. Hmmmm. This is obviously a well-kept secret, or at least it was until I found out about it. I shied away from opening a private school because I knew that the students I wanted to serve would not be able to afford private school tuition. Now there is a way to open this school, without the bureaucracy and politics of public education. Most importantly, I don’t have to deal with short men with Napoleon complexes who expect me to kiss their arses….as if.

My, how the tides have turned. Assembling a dream team of educators. Time to change the game. Dream not deferred, just re-imagined. Stay tuned.

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Georgia’s Charter Commission: Same story, different day   Leave a comment

In 2008, legislation was passed to the create the Charter School Commission in Georgia. Formally known as House Bill 881, the Commission was created in response to the high number of charter denials by local boards of education (LEAs) throughout the state, particularly in the metro-Atlanta districts. This past summer, the Commission approved its first charter schools: Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls’ school in Norcross, GA; and Charter Conservatory of Liberal Arts & Technology in Statesboro, GA. Since both schools are now Commission-approved, they will receive full state and partial local funding. Despite the intent of House Bill 881, charter schools still receive less per-pupil funding than traditional schools. This is one reasons Georgia’s charter school law received a ‘C’ on the Center for Education Reform’s annual charter school report card.

Although it appears (to outsiders) that Georgia has made some strides with its charter school policy and authorization, I can’t help but wonder: Is the process really any better with the newly-formed Commission? During the most recent charter cycle, the Commission approved five (out of 35) new charter petitions: 2 CMO-based schools; 2 community-based schools; and 1 petition that was resubmitted to receive Commission approval, after being approved as a State Special Charter School earlier this year.

One of the CMO-based school raises concerns. In the budget submitted with the charter petition, National Heritage Academies proposes fees totaling more than $1 million dollars the first year of operation. The school plans to enroll 500 students during the first year. Basically, National Heritage Academies will receive their guaranteed fees off the top of the school’s revenues, including grant funds and Title I allocations. Hmmmm. Interesting. None of the grassroots groups that submitted charter petitions included management, licensing, or facilities fees in their budgets; only one community-based group was approved. This particular group is comprised of affluent parents in an established DeKalb County neighborhood.

I must admit that I am completely dismayed and utterly disgusted at the blatant profiteering occurring within the charter school community. The state’s quest for Race to the Top funds puts traditional grassroots groups (Read: minorities without access to large sums of capital, whose children will likely attend said schools) at a clear disadvantage. The charter school culture continues to cater to for-profit companies masked as non-profits. I posed the question: Have Charter Management Organizations run amok? in another blog post. I stand corrected: There is no need to frame that statement in the form of a question. It is painstakingly obvious that they have had a considerable amount of help and for all intents and purposes, it’s perfectly legal. Well, at least for now it is. The most damning affect, in my opinion, is the perpetuation of this implied ‘Great White Hope’ theory or attitude much like the ones we have seen in D.C. and New York. despite media hype or lore, Blacks are qualified and competent enough to educate kids, and not just our kids. As long as there are implied barriers (e.g., if you don’t have $1 million dollars – don’t apply) are in place and supported by politicians, the governor, the State Superintendent of Schools, and the Charter Schools Commission, minorities may as well sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else ‘race’ to the top.

Georgia's Charter Commission: Same story, different day   Leave a comment

In 2008, legislation was passed to the create the Charter School Commission in Georgia. Formally known as House Bill 881, the Commission was created in response to the high number of charter denials by local boards of education (LEAs) throughout the state, particularly in the metro-Atlanta districts. This past summer, the Commission approved its first charter schools: Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls’ school in Norcross, GA; and Charter Conservatory of Liberal Arts & Technology in Statesboro, GA. Since both schools are now Commission-approved, they will receive full state and partial local funding. Despite the intent of House Bill 881, charter schools still receive less per-pupil funding than traditional schools. This is one reasons Georgia’s charter school law received a ‘C’ on the Center for Education Reform’s annual charter school report card.

Although it appears (to outsiders) that Georgia has made some strides with its charter school policy and authorization, I can’t help but wonder: Is the process really any better with the newly-formed Commission? During the most recent charter cycle, the Commission approved five (out of 35) new charter petitions: 2 CMO-based schools; 2 community-based schools; and 1 petition that was resubmitted to receive Commission approval, after being approved as a State Special Charter School earlier this year.

One of the CMO-based school raises concerns. In the budget submitted with the charter petition, National Heritage Academies proposes fees totaling more than $1 million dollars the first year of operation. The school plans to enroll 500 students during the first year. Basically, National Heritage Academies will receive their guaranteed fees off the top of the school’s revenues, including grant funds and Title I allocations. Hmmmm. Interesting. None of the grassroots groups that submitted charter petitions included management, licensing, or facilities fees in their budgets; only one community-based group was approved. This particular group is comprised of affluent parents in an established DeKalb County neighborhood.

I must admit that I am completely dismayed and utterly disgusted at the blatant profiteering occurring within the charter school community. The state’s quest for Race to the Top funds puts traditional grassroots groups (Read: minorities without access to large sums of capital, whose children will likely attend said schools) at a clear disadvantage. The charter school culture continues to cater to for-profit companies masked as non-profits. I posed the question: Have Charter Management Organizations run amok? in another blog post. I stand corrected: There is no need to frame that statement in the form of a question. It is painstakingly obvious that they have had a considerable amount of help and for all intents and purposes, it’s perfectly legal. Well, at least for now it is. The most damning affect, in my opinion, is the perpetuation of this implied ‘Great White Hope’ theory or attitude much like the ones we have seen in D.C. and New York. despite media hype or lore, Blacks are qualified and competent enough to educate kids, and not just our kids. As long as there are implied barriers (e.g., if you don’t have $1 million dollars – don’t apply) are in place and supported by politicians, the governor, the State Superintendent of Schools, and the Charter Schools Commission, minorities may as well sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else ‘race’ to the top.

IRS needs closer scrutiny of ‘non-profit’ CMOs   2 comments

During a conversation with a charter school organizer/colleague, I learned that the Internal Revenue Service has implemented guidelines for ‘non-profit’ charter school companies. To read the full guidelines, click here. Of particular interest is this statement: The primary concern regarding charter schools is whether they are operated for exclusively charitable purposes and do not operate for the benefit of private management companies and service providers (4.76.8.8.1  (07-01-2003). The IRS also has criteria that must be met before any organization receives tax-exempt status. For example, organizations created for educational or religious purposes often qualify for 501C3 status. Given the amount of work done by the IRS and number of applications it receives each year, it is certainly understandable how monitoring of Charter Management Companies (CMOs) may go by the wayside.

Anyone in the Education business is aware of the well-known CMOs, as well as the large financial contributions they receive from philanthropic organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, etc. But how many people actually consider where the money really goes? Sure, their first-year teachers probably earn more on average than those at traditional schools, but they also work more hours. Essentially, it practically evens itself out except for the fact that teachers at traditional schools work as many extra hours but do not receive extra compensation. That’s another blog post altogether.

Perhaps most alarming is the fact that some CMOs hand-pick their board members. This practice is in direct conflict with IRS rule: When examining a charter school that has contracted with for-profit entities for management services, the examiner should determine whether the charter school board remains in control and continues to exercise its fiduciary responsibility to the school. The board may not delegate its responsibility and ultimate accountability for the school’s operations to a for-profit management company without raising the issue of whether the organization is operating for the private benefit of that company. In the state of Georgia, any group submitting a charter petition must be recognized as a non-profit by the IRS. This is interesting, given the statements made in an email by Dennis Bakke, CEO of Imagine Schools. Bakke stated that they (Imagine) own the schools and board members should either do what they are told or resign. Is that the spirit of a true non-profit? If it is, it definitely explains why I had no interest in business until recently. from a financial standpoint, Imagine does own the schools because they ‘convince’ these parents and board members that they need a brand new, multi-million dollar building to close the achievement gap. The schools are eventually strapped with high-interest loans that come due if the board should decide to part ways with the CMO. This scenario seems much worse than any mafia business transactions I have ever seen or heard of. Food for thought.

Stay tuned. I hope to provide a list of CMOs/EMOs that are being investigated by the IRS some time next week.

IRS needs closer scrutiny of 'non-profit' CMOs   2 comments

During a conversation with a charter school organizer/colleague, I learned that the Internal Revenue Service has implemented guidelines for ‘non-profit’ charter school companies. To read the full guidelines, click here. Of particular interest is this statement: The primary concern regarding charter schools is whether they are operated for exclusively charitable purposes and do not operate for the benefit of private management companies and service providers (4.76.8.8.1  (07-01-2003). The IRS also has criteria that must be met before any organization receives tax-exempt status. For example, organizations created for educational or religious purposes often qualify for 501C3 status. Given the amount of work done by the IRS and number of applications it receives each year, it is certainly understandable how monitoring of Charter Management Companies (CMOs) may go by the wayside.

Anyone in the Education business is aware of the well-known CMOs, as well as the large financial contributions they receive from philanthropic organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, etc. But how many people actually consider where the money really goes? Sure, their first-year teachers probably earn more on average than those at traditional schools, but they also work more hours. Essentially, it practically evens itself out except for the fact that teachers at traditional schools work as many extra hours but do not receive extra compensation. That’s another blog post altogether.

Perhaps most alarming is the fact that some CMOs hand-pick their board members. This practice is in direct conflict with IRS rule: When examining a charter school that has contracted with for-profit entities for management services, the examiner should determine whether the charter school board remains in control and continues to exercise its fiduciary responsibility to the school. The board may not delegate its responsibility and ultimate accountability for the school’s operations to a for-profit management company without raising the issue of whether the organization is operating for the private benefit of that company. In the state of Georgia, any group submitting a charter petition must be recognized as a non-profit by the IRS. This is interesting, given the statements made in an email by Dennis Bakke, CEO of Imagine Schools. Bakke stated that they (Imagine) own the schools and board members should either do what they are told or resign. Is that the spirit of a true non-profit? If it is, it definitely explains why I had no interest in business until recently. from a financial standpoint, Imagine does own the schools because they ‘convince’ these parents and board members that they need a brand new, multi-million dollar building to close the achievement gap. The schools are eventually strapped with high-interest loans that come due if the board should decide to part ways with the CMO. This scenario seems much worse than any mafia business transactions I have ever seen or heard of. Food for thought.

Stay tuned. I hope to provide a list of CMOs/EMOs that are being investigated by the IRS some time next week.