Caldwell School District has received a fresh application for a proposed charter school. This particular proposal for the charter entity Pathways in Education is interesting in the sense that not only will it will be the first time that Caldwell will consider a possible alternative high school under a charter, but it will also be the first time that Caldwell will consider paying an outside “consulting” company in order to manage the charter.
Pathways in Education (PIE) is the latest of a series of charter schools promoted and managed by married former Hollywood teachers John and Joan Hall (their daughter, Jamie, and son, John Jr, are also both intricately involved in the family enterprise).
The Hall’s charter schools have been subject to much criticism including audit accusations faulting that the schools have overcharged for services, a charity funded by California public funds under guidance of Jamie Hall has spent little on actual education services, and a recent Code of Ethics investigation in Louisiana regarding the ethicacy of whether a charter school under the Hall’s management can ethically contract with separate vendor entities which also just happen to be under the Hall’s management.
But hey, maybe the Halls have an unwarranted poor reputation from those pesky anti-choicers pointing out that where charter school management companies establish themselves scandal seems to follow–particularly when multiple family members work in the same management company. So let’s examine this specific application outside of that particular context.
Red Flag Number One: There will be no free/reduced school lunch/breakfast program
Despite being in one of Idaho’s largest free and reduced lunch communities, Pathways in Education will not provide Free and Reduced Lunch Services.
No, that wasn’t a typo. In the wake of State reports indicating that minority populations are almost without exception consistently under-enrolled in Idaho’s charter schools, and despite the fact that the Idaho Public Charter School Commission claims to be making an effort in making Idaho’s charter schools a school of “choice” for minority families including low income families, this school will not offer a free and reduced lunch program.
Caldwell School District has an astoundingly high 80.67% Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL) program rate. How in the world would a new charter entity entertain the idea these low income students will have a “choice” to attend if the entity does not provide FRL services? For more information see page 97 of the application.
Red Flag Number Two: There will be no transportation offered
Again, despite the fact that CSD has nearly a 81% FRL population indicating that many families would struggle to get their children to this school of “choice,” there will be no school busing offered to students who wish to attend. Students whose families do not have the resources to provide transportation will likely be excluded. See page 96 of the application for more details.
Red Flag Number Three: So much for local control; none of the proposed board members live in Caldwell.
None of the proposed individuals for consideration in the Board for the proposed charter actually live in Caldwell. Nampa? Check. Meridian? Check. Boise? Check. Caldwell? Nope.
While I have no quarrel with the qualifications of the candidates listed, it flies in the face of local community control to suggest that individuals outside of our community will have near autonomous control of a local school. Don’t be optimistic for board accountability if non-elected nonresidents make up the entire board. See appendix D starting on page 165 for more information.
Red Flag Number Four: Time to Pay Charter Management Company!
As part of this contract agreement Caldwell will also pay a Charter Management Company, Pathways Management Group (PMG) for services that the district is entirely capable of performing without outside assistance but required to be duplicated anyways…because that makes sense.
Examples of management responsibilities that, apparently, require outside consulting experts include locating a facility for the charter, paying monthly rent, paying utility bills, and purchasing and installing computers; clearly, none of these duties can be handled within district with staff on the payroll. See pages starting on 181 for more information
And the cost of this?
Year 1 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017): $169,043.00
Year 2 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018): $172,498.00
Year 3: (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019): $173,928.00
But wait! It gets better. Starting year 4 the cost becomes even more bloated. That’s because the contract states that PIE will pay, “PMG a monthly fee for the PMG Services. PIE-ID shall initially pay PMG the amount of One Hundred Twenty Seven dollars and no Cents ($127.00) per student served per month.”
Now that’s a goldmine. See, with an anticipated enrollment of 300 students that equates to a payment of $38,100 per month. And because PIE will be a year-round school, that figure balloons to a whopping 457,200 dollars per year.
Red Flag Number Five: No money? No problem.
Don’t worry about the sticker shock though. That’s because PMG is prepared to also be the lender in addition to its management responsibilities. Because science…err…something.
The charter’s submitted financial plan include accepting a promissory note to the tune of 970,000.
Hey, it’s not like the existing facilities already accommodate Caldwell’s students. Because then CSD would ask patrons for a bond from the voters to accommodate the student population. Then they secure a note via a transparent bidding process, not through a backdoor debt mechanism with a private lender without the public’s blessing.
Oh wait, that is precisely the case? Good grief. See pages starting on 382 for more information.
This is part of a multi-part series. Part 2 is available here.
There will be a community meeting to discuss the proposal June 6th at 6PM at the Caldwell School District office.
I would encourage any alarmed community members to reach out to the CSD Board of trustees in the meantime:
Charles Stout, Chair
Thomas Briten, Vice Chair
Travis Manning, Trustee
Kent Marmon, Trustee
Lisa Bevington, Trustee