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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Charter Schools USA threatens to sue Education Matters… AGAIN!

I received a rather nasty letter from the Firm (yes straight out of a John Grissom novel) where among other things they said I should be ashamed to be an educator. I’m not. I reached out to the firm to work with me to make sure what I was writing was correct but as of now they haven’t gotten back to me. One of the things they said I got wrong was reporting the charter school at Regency had been protected by the states rule stopping schools from dropping more than one letter grade, but if you go to
then click school grades basic information on schools and scroll down to charter school at Arlington you can see I was both right and wrong.

My error was I referred to the school as the charter school of regency not Arlington but I hope you can forgive me as I have always felt regency and Arlington were synonymous. Though you can see that the school received a grade of D and was protected by the rule. I am trying to include a screen shot but thus far it is outside my capabilities.

Here is another article about it too.

The second thing they complained about was I said there was one stop shopping between Renaissance charter schools a non-profit and Charter schools USA. Here is the thing Renaissance Schools shares a mailing address with Charter Schools USA, and right there on CSUSA's website regarding a school in Doral, it says that Renaissance Schools are part of the Charter School USA "family" Further, all of Charter Schools USA's Jacksonville locations are operated by Renaissance. It is logical and quite reasonable to conclude that the companies have a close relationship. The fact that they "have been vetted by tax lawyers" as separate entities may indicate that their finances are not co-mingled and that the companies have been careful to stay separate on paper. That doesn't mean that there is not a close business relationship. The phrase "one-stop shopping" references the shared address. 

I hope I cleared those things up but before I get into the things that they did not complain about let me say my whimsical language non-withstanding I don’t think Charter Schools USA is doing anything illegal. On the contrary I believe they are playing the system (one I believe their campaign contributions helped create) like a virtuoso and they obviously have some high priced lawyers to help them. 

The following are the things they did not complain about from my original post.

The charter for the Charter School at Mandarin was given to the Renaissance Charter School group who then contracted with CUSA to run the school and their construction arm Red Apple to build it which they started to do before it was even officially approved.

They may have known it was a certainty what with Jacksonville's school boards friendliness to charters, though that did not stop CUSA and its Lawyers from hedging its bets and donating thousands to Mandarin’s school board representative, Jason Fischer.  

Nobody on the Charter School at Mandarin’s board is from Jacksonville and its sister school the Charter School at Regency would have been an F school this past year if it wasn’t protected by states rule that schools can drop only one letter grade. A rule co-created by Gary Chartrand the local businessman who brought the KIPP charter school to town who likewise has benefited from the rule.

I mention these two things because similar things happened in Orange and Hillsborough counties and they are fighting in the courts against the expansion of CUSA in their school districts. They have to fight in the courts because despite their objections Gary Chartrand and the state board of education, none of who are true educators, but consists of a citrus grower, grocer and cable TV executive instead, rubber-stamped the approval of the charter schools. 

So much for local control right?

Jonathan Hage the CEO of CUSA and husband of the executive that wrote the Sun Sentinel, even though he lives in Florida and does the vast bulk of his business here has registered the company in Delaware where CUSA operates zero schools. Then even though he only operates 58 schools with a little over 50,000 students, he lives in a 1.8 million dollar house, and sends his children to an exclusive private school.

The three closest schools to where the new charter will open up were all A schools last year so there was hardly a need to rescue kids from failing public schools.

Finally CUSA is a big player in the lobby game sending thousands of dollars to mostly republican legislators. My main problem with this is they undoubtedly use public money because remember they get their money from the public, to lobby for more public money.

They complained about none of those things, which I presume I got correct. Leaving only if they own a yacht or not, his salary and a joke comparing them to a Colombian money launderers all things I would be more than glad to clear up once they get back to me.

When I finally get to talk to a member of the “Firm” if they can show me my errors I will be glad to publish a retraction about the things I omitted above from the original post but I will do so not because they threatened me (again) but because it is important to me that I get things right. 


  1. Chris,

    I like your penchant for ignoring demands and threats from pompous lawyers.

    but it sure seems like your outrage over public money being spent to lobby for more public money, is quite selective. Although I'm not involved in either party I'm told that the backbone of the Democratic Party is the teachers unions. what do you think teachers are paid with? Public money! What do they lobby for? More public money! Where is Chris's outrage?

    let me give you a different way to think about Charter School economics. Suppose Jon Hage has many nice things that cost lots of money. Now if he takes 70 cents for every dollar the public schools take to educate kids, does a better job educating them, and has money left over for luxury items, what does that say about the waste taking place in the public schools? They ger a full dollar and don't do as good a job educating the kids, let alone have money left over. . .

    at the end of the day what your anti-consumer-choice worldview will never be able to explain is the long lines of parents waiting outside to sign their children up for a better education. and no Chris, they're not waiting outside public schools.

    1. Fair question, I believe in public education and since Tallahassee has never see fit to fund it properly I support these entities that lobby for more funds. I think teachers are under paid but I never complain about salaries we know going in what we are going to get but there are so many needs going unmet.

      As for Hage, if charter schools were performing better than public schools, paid their teachers a fair wage and weren't guilty of counseling our poor performers, and I recognize there are great charter schools that do things right, then I would be all for them, but that's not the case. The Stanford credo says Florida charters despite many advantages aren't performing as well as public schools and five percent of charters received a F compared to one percent of public schools.

      Finally what do you expect? The powers-that be have starved schools of resources, publically bashed them and put in place measures like high stakes testing that many parents don't like. Your pro-business crowd has created a crisis and is now seeking to profit off of it.

    2. Chris,
      At the national level, both political parties want to line the pockets of the test, tech and hedge fund moguls. Robert Reich recently reported that the financial sector contributed 4 times the amount that unions contributed to Pres. Obama's campaign. The attack on education is one in a series of attempts to destroy the middle class.
      In Ohio, the abysmal performance of the taxpayer-supported on-line schools, is accepted because the operators contribute heavily to the party of the governor.

  2. My question for the top poster is the following: How much should teachers be paid then? 1st year? 5th year? 10th year? 20th year? We don't have many beyond 20 years anyway. Heck, we don't have many beyond 10 years. Seriously, how much should we be paid?

    I argue that we could eliminate the region chiefs, most of the "coaches," and those with special titles who have little to no contact with actual students. That would save loads of money. How about all of the tests Duval has to constantly recreate to fit new standards? How about the revision of curriculum guides that we are required to follow but limit good teachers? How about the money spent on technology that has to be constantly updated? How about the professional development that is required for all new teachers and DCPS has to cover it? I can tell you about the waste of money in Duval all day. I can rarely tell you about how money is spent wisely.

  3. Thanks for commenting at Diane Ravitch's blog. The corruption and self-interest of school privatizers (with children as the collateral damage) will be exposed, as more and more people feel compelled to expose them.

  4. Debates and hand wringing about the dismal state of public education are exactly what the 1% want; It divides us. Fawkes o-/ expect us.