Charter Schools and “White-Collar Crime”

Basement catThe scamming for tax dollars came to a screeching halt yesterday with the shutting down of two charter schools by the Broward County School Board.  According to a Miami Herald article posted this morning, Broward moves to close 2 charter schools, Obama Academy and Red Shoe Charter, the jointly operated Fort Lauderdale charter schools are being closed for their “failure to get proper building approvals to operate as a bona fide school.”

The schools’ owner, Corey Alston, moved the two schools to a church building from their previous location without authorization and without the church’s obtaining approval from Broward County to house the schools.  To make matters worse, the Florida Building Code limits church-based schools to 100 students, and “Alston’s schools together serve almost double that.”

The article suggests that “politics were playing a role” in the School Board’s decision since Alston’s brother had previously run against a sitting Board member in a contentious race.

Then again, another minor consideration on the part of the Board could be that Alston is currently “charged with multiple crimes related to his former job as city manager for the Palm Beach County city of South Bay,” including “grand theft,” “aggravated white-collar crime,” and “corrupt misuse of a[n] official position.”

Gee, that sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  What’s with all these freaking public officials exploiting their official positions anyway?  Maybe they should consider attending the new “Candidates Academy” at Miami Dade College.  Or perhaps the Good Government Initiative, where they can learn from the Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public DIS-Trust, “Let ‘Em Go” Joe Centorino, all about ethical behavior.

Yeah, I couldn’t finish that sentence with a straight face, either.

In any event, charter school owner/criminal defendant Corey Alston has excuses for everything.  Despite the fact that Obama Academy is self-described as a “research-based teaching and learning” charter school, the certificate of occupancy states it is a “day care center.”  Alston claims this is a “minor semantic issue.”

As for his pending criminal charges, Alston said they “are not relevant to his schools.”

Oh, really?

Even though he claims the charges stemmed from “a terminated employee who was seeking retaliation,” which is always a possibility when dealing with “abuse of position” claims during a “he said/she said” argument, there’s always that pesky little “grand theft” thing that public officials might just have a hard time explaining away.

But, maybe it’s just me.

On top of that, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with “aggravated white-collar crime.”  WTF is that anyway?

In any event, this is just one example of how some charter schools appear to be nothing more than money making ventures, where the children are just afterthoughts.  While there are some charter schools that are legitimate and professionally run, in recent years far too many of them are popping up in office buildings, warehouses, malls and churches as a means of making a quick buck from tax dollars and dwindling grant money.  Many of them close as quickly as they open, after the owners have shaken the public money tree for all it’s worth and then hit the road.  Changing locations, and even closing its doors altogether, is easy enough, especially when these schools are not operated out of their own stand-alone buildings, but are merely tenants in retail spaces.  The owners of such schools have no real ownership interest in their locations, and leases can be easily broken.  The forfeiture of a security deposit might be a minor loss compared the pile of money the owners amassed during the start-up process.

As the Herald article stated, in Broward County, “more than a dozen schools have shut down in the past two years” leaving “hundreds of students” in the lurch.  Unfortunately, this is all too common an occurrence.  I don’t know the statistics in Miami-Dade County, but I’m guessing it’s a similar failure rate.  The Broward County School Board is taking proactive measures to fix the problem.  I hope that the Miami-Dade County School Board will start doing the same.

For additional information on charter schools, please read Sharon Aron Baron’s excellent column in Tamarac Talk, Public Schools Outperform Charter Schools in Broward County.  The results of her analysis are indeed surprising.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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  1. NMB Lady says:

    The worst of this is that these bogus “charters” siphon money away from traditional schools, and when they go belly-up, districts (tax-payers) absorb the students but not the money that has already been frittered away. In the mean time, the charters scream that they’re not getting ENOUGH of our tax dollars. Please! Last year, in Broward County alone, eight charter schools closed, with no notice, primarily because of inexperience and fiscal irresponsibility. This left students, parents, and school members scrambling trying to find an alternative placement. I blame this mess on school board members who vote to approve risky ventures so an influential constituent will favor them in the next election, and parents who don’t question why the books are photo-copies and the classes are being held in a shed strewn with condoms and wine bottles. The whole point of vouchers/school choice was to allow your child to go to a better school with more qualified instructors. The ugly truth is you wouldn’t send your dog to obedience training at most of these “pop-ups”. Trust me. FYI: Check out FL teacher’s credentials: http://www.fldoe.org/edcert/public.asp

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