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Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Wayman Academy of the Arts pays millions in rent, to themselves

Reverend Mark L. Griffin painted a very disingenuous picture of charter schools, short on sources. I have sent all the sources below to the editor, or you can find them on the blog, Education Matters.

Charter schools are businesses, and nobody should think differently. Everyone should understand that business is booming in Florida, especially in cities where there are special referendums to help public schools.  

The most obvious question is how the operators make money. The answer is real estate. As exhibit number one, let's take Griffin's Wayman Academy for the Arts, located at 1167 Labelle Street. 

That office is also the location of 7 other businesses, including the property owner, the West Jacksonville Economic Development Corp, of which Griffin is listed as a director, and the Wayman Temple AME church. In 2004, five years after the charter school was founded, the church sold itself at nine times what they bought it for in 1989. The reason? Apparently to pay themselves rent.

Since 2015 as far back as I could access, they have paid themselves 360 thousand dollars a year. If that is how much they have charged themselves, remember they are paying themselves rent since 2005, that is a little over 5.7 million dollars on a property currently valued at 2,750,000 dollars.

That 5.7 million is their profit. That 5.7 million dollars is money that never saw the inside of a classroom. 

Extrapolate that out to the 29 out of 32 other Duval charter schools that are leased. We are talking tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars that went into operators' pockets and not into classrooms.   

Do you know what is absolutely crazy about this? It is that it's absolutely legal, sadly in Florida, however legal and right often doesn't go hand in hand. 

Then there are Reverend Griffin's assertions that might sound good until you add context, something charter school supporters never want to supply.

Griffin says in the states, 700 charter schools enrollment is up 3.6 percent during the pandemic. 

He both doesn't mention the hundreds of charter schools that have taken public money and closed, and there are undoubtedly lots of reasons why somebody might choose a charter school over a traditional public school. Some families, like bright and shiny new things, over schools that have endured over a decade of cuts. The private school feel, the constant bashing of public schools by the state's leaders, and the fact that there are just more and more of them may be other reasons, enrollment has nominally gone up. Then both locally and sadly, our school board has not meant a charter school it didn't like and approves them like that, and not taking care of our schools is their job. 

Then let's talk about that sixty-nine percent figure he cites, implying charter schools are cheaper. Charter schools are not required to provide the same level of services and options that public schools are. Fewer services, less need for money. When you throw in PECO funds, money for maintenance, charter schools have gotten hundreds of millions over the last decade while public schools barely pennies. Addin the money the state often allocates to individual charter schools and federal grants, then how much the public is actually investing in them skyrockets. 

Griffin then applauds that some charter schools go out of business, wasting billions, and he seems to think it is okay that public schools compete against each other. Let me ask the reader a question, would you think a half dozen police stations or fire stations in the same section of town competing for resources would be a good idea? Of course not and neither is it a good idea for schools. 

Finally, like Gary Chartrand, who had a pro-charter op-ed printed last week, Griffin fundamentally misunderstands what Charters are supposed to be. They were supposed to be parent/teacher-driven laboratories of innovation, not profit centers for investors and hedge funds. This innovation was supposed to be then brought back and replicated in public schools. Charters weren’t supposed to compete with public schools; they were supposed to be partners and help innovate them.   

Charter schools, by and large, are not here to educate our children. They are here to make money, and business is booming. 

To read Griffin's screed, hit the link

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