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The Arizona Republic recently won a Polk Award for its outstanding coverage of charter corruption.
Craig Harris, a member of the investigative team, writes here about how charters ignore parents’ complaints.
When a student is mistreated, there is no re ourse. The boarddoesnt care. It protects the school,not the student.
Students in charter schools have no rights. The parents of the student in the incident described herewithdrew him from the school.
“Evan George had finished his classes for the day and was hanging out with friends at American Leadership Academy’s Queen Creek campus, when two staff members approached and accused him of vaping.
“Evan, 16, says he was doing a trick with his mouth that produces a plume of moist air that resembles vapor from an electronic cigarette.
“His explanation didn’t convince the charter school’s staffers.
“Evan was ordered to the administration office, where Athletic Director Rich Edwards took him into a room and searched him, looking for a vape pen, which would have been a violation of school policy.
“He told me to take my pants down, and he put his fingers in my underwear,” said Evan, who is a junior. “I felt scared.”
“The search didn’t turn up a vaping device, according to records the school provided to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.
“ALA still suspended Evan from school for eight days.
“His parents, Chris and Kimberlie George, said both the Dec. 11 search and the suspension were wrong.
“The athletic director inappropriately touched their son, they said. And the school suspended Evan without proof he’d had been vaping, even though their son’s only prior disciplinary issues were for wearing torn jeans and chewing gum, they said.
“But when the Georges sought an independent review of Evan’s suspension, they found they had nowhere to turn.
“Arizona’s charter schools are primarily run by private companies. They must have a governing board, but school owners get to pick who’s on the board, so many are stocked with relatives, friends and even the charter’s owner. In some instances, boards have just one member — the charter operator.
“American Leadership Academy Queen Creek student says he was strip searched over vape trick
16-year-old Evan George says he was strip searched in December 2018 after performing a trick that made it appear vapor was coming from his mouth.
“Beyond the school, parents can only turn to the state Charter Board. And regulators there, because of limited resources and limited authority, rarely investigate such complaints against schools, an Arizona Republic investigation shows.
“The result is a lack of independent oversight that leaves students and families at some charter schools, in disagreements big and small, with no recourse to challenge school officials’ actions — even if they think those moves inhibit their students’ academic progress or personal safety.
“ALA Queen Creek officials denied the Georges’ request for an appeal hearing before ALA’s Board of Directors, which is composed of friends of ALA founder Glenn Way.
“Evan was never afforded due process,” Chris George said. “He wasn’t able to speak to his accusers, and the dismissal hearing was a farce. There was no interest in what the truth was.”
The Arizona Republic has previously written about Glenn Way, the founder of this charter chain.
On July 11, 2018, the Arizona Republic described how Way has made millions of dollars through hischarter chain.
“When Glenn Way moved to the East Valley at the end of the Great Recession, he might have been looking for a fresh start.
“The charter school operator was deep in debt to the IRS, had sought bankruptcy protection, and recently resigned from the Utah Legislature after his wife filed a protective order against him, public records show.
“Arizona offered other opportunities for someone in his line of work: A more lightly regulated charter school industry that’s well-funded.
“At his American Leadership Academy, which he launched in June 2009, he promised students would find “the best educational experience … in a moral and wholesome environment.”
“Thanks partly to Arizona’s favorable charter school laws and lucrative no-bid contracts with ALA, Way would find new wealth.
“The schools, which have made patriotism central to their brand, including red, white or blue student apparel, have been a hit in the conservative East Valley. American Leadership — which bears the same name as a charter school Way and his wife, Shelina, operated in Spanish Fork, Utah — has over nine years grown to a dozen campuses with 8,354 students in Florence, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.
“Way’s own development and finance companies bought the land and then built most of the school buildings. Then, they sold or leased them to American Leadership Academy, where Way, until last year, was board chairman.
“An Arizona Republic review of property records shows that during ALA’s nine-year expansion, businesses owned by or tied to Way made about $37 million on real estate deals associated with the schools — funded largely by the Arizona tax dollars allocated to his charter schools.
“Way disputes the profit figure, saying undisclosed capital costs tied to the campuses, such as street improvements, trimmed profits to $18.4 million. He did not provide documents to show a lower profit.
“But building and selling the schools weren’t the only ways he has profited. Another one of Way’s firms is paid at least $6 million a year to operate them under a contract with American Leadership, records show.
“An Arizona charter schools watchdog said regardless of the precise size of the multimillion-dollar profit, it’s clear that Way has profited handsomely — like other charter operators — using Arizona’s loose charter school laws.
“Meanwhile, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools is investigating allegations of financial mismanagement at ALA.
“Way said there has been no wrongdoing.
“Charter schools were not designed for people to make a profit,” said Chuck Essigs, government relations director of the Arizona School Association of Business Officials.
“The (charter school) law is silent on the question of profit, and for good reason. Arizona families will only benefit if more operators of quality charter schools are enticed to expand their offerings in our state,” said Way, who is building a home in Queen Creek valued at nearly $1 million.”
It must be the height of patriotism to get rich from public funding intended for schools.