Friday, December 16, 2011

A great charter school hustle

I've got to hand it to charter school authorizer and former lobbyist, Greg Richmond for coming up with this great hustle. A law recently pass by the Illinois state legislature created his new charter school agency called the Illinois State Charter School Commission which has the power to create new charter schools even when local school districts oppose them. The commission also has the power to monitor the same charters it authorizes. Richmond is the commission's chairman.

Okay, that's a little shady. But here's where the great hustle comes in (some cynics might call this a conflict of interest). The way the commission raises money for itself (aside from private dollars from pro-charter billionaires)  is by handing out more and more charters. You see, starting next July, Richmond's commission can begin collecting a fee from every new charter it creates. The more charters, the more money in its budget to authorize more charters.  And so it goes. Bada-bing. Bada-boom.

The nine commission members — recommended by Gov. Pat Quinn and appointed by ISBE — are already holding official meetings and overseeing a staff member, attorney Jeanne Nowaczewski. The money for the commission’s staffing and other expenses so far comes from the Walton foundation. Other recipients of Walton grants include the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, a statewide umbrella. The foundation reports that it gave the network more than $1 million in 2010. Andrew Broy, the network’s president, said the amount for 2011 is about $950,000.

The network also serves as an intermediary — a “fiscal agent” in nonprofit parlance — for Walton’s funding of the state commission. Richmond said Nowaczewski receives her paychecks from the network, not the commission. Exactly how big is that paycheck, I wonder?

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