Friday, January 17, 2014
Triple dipping is okay to Education Reformers.
My dear friend Patrick Gibbons of ReDefined Ed scours the country for school choice stories and then ranks them. He ranked bellow needs improvement:
Steven Yarbrough is a state senator in Arizona and founder and CEO of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, a tax-credit scholarship granting organization. Last week an investigative journalist at CBS 5 accused Yarbrough of profiting from a program he helped found. Two of the charges levied by the news organization turned out to be false. Sen. Yarbrough was elected to office four years after he founded the scholarship organization, and SB 1047, which Yarbrough did co-author, did not increase scholarship organization management fees as the investigator claimed.
However, Yarbrough does admit to earning money by renting real estate to his own scholarship organization and through a third-party data processing company he co-owns. This extra income is in addition to his $96,000-a-year salary from the scholarship organization. Yarbrough is up front with these expenditures, declaring them in both his 990 and in an email with the journalist. But being up front with such expenditures, sadly, isn’t enough.
While the Arizona Senate Ethics Committee has cleared Yarbrough of wrongdoing, school choice proponents must hold themselves to a higher standard. School choice is still in a tenuous position and critics will latch onto any fear (real or imagined) to prevent, or even eliminate, choice programs. Even the perception of someone making money from choice programs (even if they take a financial loss, or offer professional services cheaper than competitors) does harm to the movement.
I have to tell you after dealing with Florida’s ethics complaint board and seeing what Arizona will allow, I believe the only way somebody could have an ethics complaint upheld was if they were caught with a live boy or a dead girl. But regardless it is all right for him to pass legislation, he may not have written but you can be damn sure he voted for it that allows him to take more public money out of classrooms and for him to rent property to himself paying himself with public money that he gets. This is the same thing many big charter chains do; they buy a building and then rent it to the charter they establish for large fees which they continue to charge even after the property is paid off.
I want to point out that Yarborough is receiving three sets of public money, his salary for being a legislator, his salary for running the voucher program, and the rents he pays himself, which I bet are above the going rate. That’s the old triple dip. Is this the kind of guy you want in charge of children’s education?
And that’s the rub, education reformers scream how public schools have failed our children and need to be replaced but then they turn their heads when charlatans and mercenaries rake in public money. Are there problems in public education? Yes, but often they are ignored, exacerbated or created by those that seek to replace and profit off of public schools. Like say a politician who runs a voucher program and charges the state rent.
Yarborough doesn’t deserve a needs improvement; he needs to be run out of town.