Friday, March 11, 2016

TeamCFA 's first charter school in Indy

Don Wheeler

As we noted in Corporate Education To Arrive In South Bend 2017 TeamCFA intends to open a  K-8 Charter school in downtown South Bend in 2017.

In the South Bend Tribune story it was noted that TeamCFA currently operates the Indianapolis Academy of Excellence - which opened in 2014.  But it turns out that they have been involved in charter school administration in Indy prior to this.

In 2006 TeamCFA opened the Challenge Foundation Academy at 3980 Meadows Dr.  For reasons unknown, it became uninvolved in 2014 - though the re-named school is still in operation.

Doug Martin, author of Hoosier School Heist, explains the genesis of this school in great detail.  His investigation discovered that one of the Challenge Foundation's (the parent organization of TeamCFA) strategies is to couple with other interested parties to achieve its goals.

I speculated in my earlier piece that the gentrification of  downtown South Bend might be an attraction to TeamCFA.  After reading of CFA's coming to fruition, it seems a near certainty.

As mayor in 2006, Peterson had approved Strategic Capital Partners’ proposal to build the Challenge Foundation Academy in Indianapolis’ Avondale Meadows district.  At the Indy charter, which was honored by Indiana superintendent of public instruction,Tony Bennett, in 2010, two SCP members still sit on the board of directors, Gene Zink, the leader of the Avondale Meadows gentrification project, and Charles J. Garcia, who has also directed the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) which with Conexus Indiana offers online degree programs to “prepare Hoosiers for manufacturing and logistics careers.”
The Avondale Meadows charter was intended to be part of what is called a "Purpose Built Community".  Martin explains how this tends to play out.

The SCP/PBC type of public-private investment in “mixed income housing” and charter schools hardly ever turns out well for anyone but the investors, as professor Kenneth Saltman has outlined in Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools. In illustrating how the Commercial Club of Chicago wrote the Renaissance 2010 blueprint for mayor Daley, Saltman details how in the guise of urban renewal to help the poor, the city and big business blended “real estate profiteering and land grabs at the expense of the most vulnerable,” (137) then called for ungodly guidelines which made it impossible for the city’s poorest to reenter the new mixed housing developments, “sometimes even restricting anyone with an extended family member with a [criminal] record” (136). This exemplifies gentrification nationwide. After decades of neglecting public housing and school decay, big city mayors and privatizers move in with state grants, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money, and other funds, and build expensive housing projects to drive minorities into the suburbs or homeless shelters, while wealthier white residents move in. Pauline Lipman, an outspoken critic of Renaissance 2010 and the gentrification/charter school schemes in general, adds that this real estate development breeds financial speculation, which, “in turn, causes increases in property values and rising property taxes, driving out low-income and working-class renters and home owners” (p.7). As Saltman notes, after Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 1995, they ended the requirement that for each demolished public housing project a new public project be created (135). At this point, the public schools are shut down and charter schools start cropping up to take taxpayer money for the poor students who have been lucky enough to get new public housing with their families.

Meanwhile, the charters are happy to take advantage of the fact that kids of wealthier families, more "ready to learn" are suddenly available.

You might wonder where the money is in all this.  Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now looked into that in 2010. 

And what happens is, the investors who put up the money to build the charter schools get to basically virtually double their money in seven years through a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re collecting interest on the loans, as well as getting the 39 percent tax credit. They piggyback the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits, like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfields credits. The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.  
And the problem is that the charter schools end up paying in rents the debt service on these loans. And so, now a lot of the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt — their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year, or huge increases in their rents, as they strain to pay off these loans, these construction loans. And the rents are eating up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.
Martin contends that Team CFA does not seem to be interested in that angle, however.  As he puts it:
Bryan (the founder) and Team CFA don’t believe in a government-run school system, but they don’t turn down federal money. Their plan seems less about making money for themselves than about helping destroy a system so that future corporations can profit handsomely, where local control is abolished, and where a fake patriotism conceals a more undemocratic plan.  In fact, Challenge Foundation Properties, its real estate branch, owns the school in Indy and plans on selling it to the school through bonds, if it hasn’t already. Money made from Challenge Foundation Properties is used to invest in building more charter schools. Indiana is one of the group’s main targets.
But their friends are.

There is not a great deal of oversight done on charter schools, but the State Board of Accounts does perform periodic audits.  For the period of October 25, 2005 to June 30, 2007 they found some significant problems, including:

- Monthly school lunch reimbursement claim reports for fiscal year 2006-2007 were not electronically filed with the Indiana Department of Education in a timely manner. The August 2006 and January 2007 reports were not electronically filed within 60 days of the month end and therefore did not qualify for reimbursement. Supporting documentation presented for May 2007 indicated that paid and free meals reported were under stated by approximately 768 and 134, respectively. The School Corporation, as a result, received less than the amount allowed. 

- The School Food Authority Verification Summary Report was not accurate. The report indicated that 100% of the Free and Reduced Lunch applications approved were verified. Evidence presented for examination indicated that none of the applications were verified.

- The Report of Average Daily Membership (ADM) was not performed or reported until November 6, 2006. The ADM count date was September 15, 2006, and the report date to Indiana Department of Education was no later than September 29, 2006. Political subdivisions are required to comply with all grant agreements, rules, regulations, bulletins, directives, letters, letter rulings, and filing requirements concerning reports and other procedural matters of federal and state agencies, including opinions of the Attorney General of the State of Indiana, and court decisions. Governmental units should file accurate reports required by federal and state agencies. Noncompliance may require corrective action.

- Payments were made to Fifth Third Bank for credit card purchases that were not supported by original bills or invoices. Credit card statements presented for October 2006 through May 2007 lacked some or all supporting documentation for purchases. 

- Payments were made to employees that were not included in the payroll system or on a salary schedule or contract. Payments were made to employees by vendor checks. Payroll taxes were not properly withheld or remitted. Payments were not reported on Internal Revenue Service Form W-2, but were reported on Internal Revenue Service Form 1099.
Not exactly a well-oiled machine.

And what kind of a school was this, anyway?  Well, the now-named Avondale Meadows Academy outlines their mission thusly:

Every AMA student knows and follows the High 5 Expectations:

  1. Be respectful
  2. Keep hands and feet to yourself
  3. Come to school prepared and ready to learn
  4. Follow directions
  5. Be responsible
 Next time we'll look into their current operation, and a bit more of their background and intent.

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