Charter Schools USA is a very successful for-profit business. It is very profitable. Its CEO Jonathan Hage is an entrepreneur, not an educator. The company’s headquarters are in Florida but it operates 70 charter schools in seven states. It hopes to take over the entire York, Pennsylvania, school district. The money to operate the charter schools come out of money that would otherwise go to district public schools.
How does Hage and the corporation make big money? It is not the management fee of 5%. It’s the rent.
As Channel 10 learned in its investigation, charters profit handsomely by paying outsize rent to themselves.
“When the company helps open a new school, its development arm, Red Apple Development, acquires land and constructs a school. Then, CUSA charges the school high rent.
“For example, Winthrop Charter in Riverview may struggle to balance its budget this year thanks to a $2 million rent payment to CUSA/Red Apple Development. The payment will equate to approximately 23% of its budget, even though CUSA CEO Jon Hage has been quoted as saying charter school rent should not exceed 20%.”
The corporation says that as long as test scores are high and parents are happy, the profits are no problem.
“But among CUSA’s critics is the League of Women Voters, which recently released a study suggesting a troubling lack of separation between a charter school’s advisory board and for-profit management companies. It also indicates charter school teachers aren’t often paid as well and profits all-too-often play a role in educational decisions.
“That means that children aren’t getting what they’re owed by the public funding,” said Pat Hall, a retired Jefferson High department head and Hillsborough County’s education chair for the League of Women Voters.
“The study also revealed school choice creates a higher risk of disruption to a child’s education, as “statewide closure rate of charters is 20%” and “Charters are 50% of all F-rated schools in 2011.” In the last week, last-minute problems displaced a hundreds of charter school students from St. Petersburg to Delray Beach.
“Hall acknowledges many charter schools are teaching children in unique and successful ways, but says Charter Schools USA isn’t offering students anything that’s not available in public schools. She adds that the schools are so focused on FCAT fundamentals, they forego many traditional aspects of the school experience.”
CUSA schools often don’t have a library or cafeteria, but school officials tout the superiority of eating in the classroom and having a classroom library.