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People often wonder why hedge fund managers and entrepreneurs are so devoted to the proliferation of charter schools and so hostile to public schools. If you survey the research, it is clear that they get about the same results overall as public schools. There are some that get high scores, but they usually get them by cherry picking the most motivated and able students. Some are fly-by-night operations.
What’s the lure? I believe that some number of the 1% who love charters are motivated by a desire to do good. Others think the free-market of choice and competition will work wonders. Still others are motivated by profit. None are at all concerned that they are inflicting grievous harm on a basic public institution that is central to our democracy. Or they they are experimenting on other people’s children.
Laura H. Chapman reminds us of the power and allure of profits.
In Forbes magazine, 2013, by Allison Wiggin.
“About the only thing charters do well is limit the influence of teachers’ unions. And fatten their investors’ portfolios.
In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs.
So attractive is the math, according to a 2010 article by Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News, “that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.”
It’s not only wealthy Americans making a killing on charter schools. So are foreigners, under a program critics call “green card via red carpet.”
“Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools,” says a 2012 Reuters report.
The formal name of the program is EB-5, and it’s not only for charter schools. Foreigners who pony up $1 million in a wide variety of development projects — or as little as $500,000 in “targeted employment areas” — are entitled to buy immigration visas for themselves and family members.
“In the past two decades,” Reuters reports, “much of the investment has gone into commercial real estate projects, like luxury hotels, ski resorts and even gas stations. Lately, however, enterprising brokers have seen a golden opportunity to match cash-starved charter schools with cash-flush foreigners in investment deals that benefit both.”