Monday, May 17, 2010

Birthplace of charter schools "infected"

Junk bonds fueling Minn. charters

Minnesota's charter school movement, which sparked a national rethinking of public schooling nearly two decades ago, has been infected by an out-of-control financing system fueled by junk bonds, insider fees and lax oversight. 
To lure the investors they need for new buildings, some educators are abandoning the intimate campuses their founders envisioned and are building large schools that look more like the conventional institutions that some families are fleeing. Some charter school advocates say the build-your-own trend could undermine an education movement built on small class size and parental involvement. (
An examination of the state's charter school finances by Minnesota 2020 came up with similar findings:
Seventeen years after the first charter school opened in Minnesota, this examination of fiscal year 2007 charter school financial audits shows that the vast majority of charter schools do not follow basic financial guidelines or, in some cases, state law.


  1. For the record, MN 2020 is hardly what I would call "hard hitting journalism." The one school that is in question regarding junk bonds is St. Croix Prep ( in Stillwater. It should be noted that charters cannot own buildings in MN. It should also be noted that MN 2020 does not have and will not do a comparison study when it comes to the waste of money by traditional school districts. There are some transparent/good charters in MN, that employ some progressive educators that I am proud to be associated with.

  2. Thanks Aaron.

    But are you saying that the Star Tribune got it wrong? That 18 charter schools (not just 1)have been built with $178 million in junk bonds?

    Are you also saying that Minn2020 (without getting into whether or not they are "hard hitting") is wrong in reporting that,"the vast majority of charter schools do not follow basic financial guidelines or, in some cases, state law?"

    Do you have any reports countering these charges that I can cite? Let me know and I will be happy to post them. I appreciate your help on this.

  3. Aaron,

    Why so quick to defend the corporate charter hustlers and consultants who have taken advantage of a loophole in the law to enrich themselves. Of course not all charters are funded with junk bonds. But, as the Star Tribune article shows, the system is "infected."


  4. St. Paul charter teacherMay 17, 2010 at 7:43 PM

    This is not new. Charter hustlers include guys like John Cairns, the lobbyist from Briggs & Morgan, who helped write the 1991 charter law and then made millions off it. Hey Aaron, how about Dick Ward (Dougherty & Co.) and Mark Beltz, who both helped lots of charters arrange junk-bond financing.

    "Only one school?" Who are you kidding?

    Of the 18 charter schools built through lease-aid bond money, Cairns played a key role in 15 of those deals.

  5. Sorry for being slow to respond. I want to be clear in saying that I am wholeheartedly against using public/taxpayer money to enrich those in the corporate world. Mike, I don't believe that having the systems argument charters vs. districts is worth our time anymore. As a progressive educator, I have only worked in two charter schools. I want bad people who only seek to make money out of public education as well. My point of MN 2020 is that they have no integrity. I don't see them addressing the passed referendum in St. Louis County District, which is allegedly illegal and forces out all Native American students. By the way, Johnson Controls is making millions off of this work. I don't dispute the 18 charters that used junk bonds. I don't stick up for them. My question is, what is the answer if not charters? When are teachers going to start getting out of their classrooms and fighting for justice?


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.