Charter Schools and Privatization: Following the (Funny) Money

While I think many supporters of the charter school and privatization movements are well-intentioned, albeit terribly misguided, they have attracted, as all bad ideas do, the bottom feeders–in this case, banks that lend charter schools money for building facilities (boldface mine):

There’s a lot of money to be made in charter schools, and I’m not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools. It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets tax credit. What this allows is it gives enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities and it’s been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. I have focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state, is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools, twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany attend are now attending charter schools. I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets tax credits. What happens is the investors who put up the money to build charter schools get to basically or virtually double their money in seven years through a thirty-nine percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that their lending, so they’re also collecting interest on the loans as well as getting the thirty-nine percent tax credit. They piggy-back the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits like historic preservation or job creation or brownfields credits.

The result is, you can put in ten million dollars and in seven years double your money. The problem is, that the charter schools end up paying in rents, the debt service on these loans and so now, a lot [of] the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt service- their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year or- huge increases in their rents as they strain to pay off these loans, these construction loans. The rents are eating-up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state…No one knows who are the people making these huge windfall profits as the investors. Often, there are interlocking relationships between the charter school boards and the nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans.

As with so many ideas stemming from the conservative ‘revolution’, here too we have now reached the final stage where batshit lunacy merges with outright corruption. And as with so many ideas stemming from the conservative ‘revolution’, the most vulnerable pay the price.

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3 Responses to Charter Schools and Privatization: Following the (Funny) Money

  1. NewEnglandBob says:

    Your last paragraph – this is nothing new. batshit lunacy merging with outright corruption is a right wing staple for a century or more.

  2. Dunc says:

    I’d argue that it was more-or-less ever thus, it’s just that in the last few decades, increased transparency has demanded ever greater amounts of batshit lunacy to disguise the outright corruption…

  3. david says:

    Right, it’s a raid on the public treasury. As such it is subject to investigation and possible action by the NY attorney general. Don’t know what all he is doing right now, except even bigger raids, from Wall Street, as compared to which this is nothing in size, have him occupied.
    Metaphorically, the time seems ripe to ignore the persons robbing vending machines and catch the larger and more vicious thieves with a pencil. This would be reform. We should not take the “always with us” or century view even if it is accurate.

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