Education, Inc. | Reviews | The Gazette of the Journal
It’s now been two decades since the Indiana Charter Schools Act was passed. It’s hard to say that the state’s first foray into school choice improved public education, but it certainly strengthened some private businesses.
The Network For Public Education recently reported that National Heritage Academies, which operates the Andrew J. Brown Academy in Indianapolis, is selling 69 of its more than 90 schools to a new company created expressly for the acquisition. Charter Development Co., a real estate arm of National Heritage, will receive payment for a sale that requires nearly $ 1 billion to finance.
National Heritage Founder and Charter Development Co. owner JC Huizenga of Grand Rapids, Mich., Made nearly $ 200,000 in campaign giveaways to Republicans in Indiana and a political action committee that pushed the Indiana school selection legislation.
Another charter operator from Indiana has also seen a huge gain by selling its operations to a real estate branch. Former Fort Wayne Community Schools Principal Bill Coats, who left the district in 1994, founded the Leona Group in 1996, operating charter schools in Arizona, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The first charter school in Fort Wayne, the Timothy L. Johnson Academy, was opened by Leona in 2002. Leona operated it until 2018, when Phalen Leadership Academies took over.
Jim Hall of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability investigated the Leona Group’s finances in 2017, reporting that Coats sold the company for $ 72 million.
“In 2007, Bill Coats, the sole owner of Leona Group LLC, sold ten Leona-owned schools to a non-profit organization he created in 1998, the American Charter Schools Foundation (ACSF) for $ 33 million. dollars more than their market value. he wrote. “ACSF ‘leased’ its facilities for $ 6,195,000 to the ten schools in 2016. When Bill Coats owned the schools in 2006, the total leases were less than half that amount – $ 2,875,034.
“The real estate windfall Bill Coats received in 2007 by selling his schools to his own foundation caused CAM to systematically cut classroom expenses to the lowest rates of any school in Arizona – to fund excessive mortgages. “Hall wrote.
The Journal Gazette reported on a similar real estate transaction involving the Imagine MASTer Academy of Fort Wayne on the former YWCA campus on North Wells Street. The campus was purchased in 2006 by North Wells Schoolhouse LLC, an Indiana company with the same mailing address in Arlington, Virginia, as the for-profit company Imagine Schools Inc., for $ 2.9 million. Imagine’s local school board then sublet part of the campus to Schoolhouse Finance, the real estate subsidiary of Imagine Inc. Schoolhouse, in turn, sold the property to JERIT CS Fund, a wholly owned subsidiary of Entertainment Properties Trust, a Kansas City-based real estate investment trust. ImagineMASTer Academy, threatened with closure by its authorizer, Ball State University, renounced its charter and the school reopened as a vouchers school, Horizon Christian Academy. Approximately $ 3.6 million in loans made to Imagine were canceled by the state of Indiana.
Headwaters Church now owns the Wells Street campus. He does not operate a charter or voucher school.
As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden has said he will end federal funding for for-profit charter schools. House Democrats are now pushing for a law to make schools ineligible for federal funds. Indiana taxpayers would do well to ask their lawmakers to do the same with public funds.