Cherokee County School Board member Michael Geist seems confused why he is getting so much negative feedback about the lack of fiscal controls in the charter school amendment he supports.
I will clarify the issues by explaining how the Cherokee Charter Academy (CCA) was funded and how the charter school amendment fails to protect taxpayers. According to a recent newspaper article, CCA’s owner/operators (a private company) were given over $1 million of taxpayer money as start-up capital.
CCA’s owner/operators receive a management contract that pays them close to $1 million a year (a rate that is higher on a percentage basis than what Cherokee spends on our public schools). These funds are above and beyond the additional, regular operating money charter schools receive from the school district.
CCA’s owner/operators were not required to purchase a guaranteed bond (a form of insurance) that pays the school district in the event the CCA closes midyear (and dumps over 1,000 students back into the system).
If CCA goes out of business — which looks increasingly likely — its owner/operators get to keep the $1 million start-up capital (and/or whatever assets they bought with it) and have no liabilities.
Why would anyone support giving a private company over a million dollars, guaranteed profit, and no downside risk?
This is a terrible deal for taxpayers. We should not support forcing taxpayers to capitalize private companies or give them no-obligation government contracts.
As a public school board member, their duty is to protect the school’s assets, not look for creative ways to squander them.
The taxpayers of Cherokee have already been burned with similar deals. For example, we may lose $50 million that went to fund a private recycler that went bust (leaving taxpayers again holding the bag). As you well know, taxpayers across the country have already lost massive amounts of money in poorly structured charter schools deals.
For the record, I support charter schools and believe they play an important and positive role in our education system. What I do not support is officeholders that make foolish and emotional decisions with taxpayer money.
Taxpayers of Cherokee County would appreciate answers to questions from those supporting the state charter amendment including a list of other school district services a vendor can perform where taxpayers provide free start-up capital and guaranteed revenue, all with no penalty for failure to perform.
Assuming that a list can’t be provide, why would anyone support the private owner/operators of the Cherokee Charter Academy receiving such a deal?
Why would anyone support a charter amendment that does not include the taxpayer protections needed to prevent CCA-like deals from happening again?