Charter Voucher Charlatans Now Advocating AIG Style Derivatives

The education industry represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control… represents the largest market opportunity… the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.

— Montgomery Securities prospectus quoted in Jonathan Kozol’s “The Big Enchilada

If we ever needed more evidence that the entire charter-voucher charade is about market share and money making, Expand a Proven Finance Solution for All Charter Schools, by Ricardo Mireles, the well heeled Executive Director of Academia Avance, provides us with clear insight.

In the piece Mr. Mireles, without any regard to the fact that he’s discussing public money, advocates “sell[ing] our state receivables to private companies.” Let’s bear in mind that the state receivables that Mireles refers to is our tax dollars. The last thing the public needs is unelected boards of privatized charter schools gambling with our hard earned tax dollars in cockamamy schemes smacking of the exotic mortgage derivatives market that crashed the economy and made a handful of Wall Street plutocrats even more rich.

By and large, nearly all charter schools (charter schools are schools that take public money, but are run by private entities including corporations), get huge grants from ideologically biased foundations like that of the neoliberal Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate. When charters cite studies by far-right think tanks that they tend to get slightly less public funding than public schools, they invariably leave out the fact that they more than make up for such minor shortfalls with a deluge of plutocrat funds to spend with little or no oversight.

No wonder hedge fund managers like the vile Whitney Tilson espouse charter-vouchers schools like they’re the next bubble to profit from. Here’s what the predatory parasite of Tilson Funds had to say in regards to the extremely lucrative charter-voucher industry he helped create:

“hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

A wealthy hedge fund manager can spend more than $1 million financing a charter school start-up. But once it is up and running, it qualifies for state funding, just like a public school… “It is extremely leveraged philanthropy,” Mr. Tilson said.

Curiously Mireles says “CCSA [California Charter School Association] is a great advocate.”1 He doesn’t say what they advocate, but we all know CCSA’s advocacy story. Here’s a few reminders:

At first I was intrigued as to why Mireles would be pushing a very risky, but lucrative financial shell game. Turns out Mireles is somewhat exceptional in the highly paid charter-voucher CEO world. He only pays himself $65,327 according to his 2009 990 Part VII A, while most charter executives help themselves to lavish six figure salaries. So it isn’t surprising he’s on board with AIG style dupe-the-public financing. Such schemes give him a chance to further increase his fortunes at the public’s expense via clever investing. We can all be sure that companies like Charter School Capital (CSC), discussed in Mireles’ article, will be investment vehicles for all the vultures looking to profit off the privatization of public education.

Charter schools are notorious for gross malfeasance and financial mismanagement. Charter School Scandals is probably the best resource for viewing the scope of this endemic and ever growing problem. The site introduces itself with the following:

A compilation of news articles about charter schools which have been charged with, or are highly suspected of, tampering with admissions, grades, attendance and testing; misusing local, state, and federal funds; engaging in nepotism and conflicts of interest; engaging in complicated and shady real estate deals; and/or have been engaging in other questionable, unethical, borderline-legal, or illegal activities. This is also a record of charter school instability and other unsavory tidbits.

We don’t need to look too far for charter schools scandals though, it turns out that “[f]ormer employees and parents accuse[d] Ricardo Mireles of improprieties because of financial pressure at Academia Avance,” this is detailed in a Howard Blume piece “Critics assail director of L.A. charter.” The article details how Mireless, a Coro Fellow,2 was embroiled in a major scandal at his school. Why Los Angeles Unified School District renewed Academia Avance’s charter defies comprehension. Mireles must have gotten his financial advice from the notorious Mike Piscal of ICEF ignominy.

Privately managed charter schools are so rife with malfeasance, that the very birthplace of charter schools — Minnesota — recently placed a moratorium on them. This is because it was found that “75% [of charter schools] had a least one irregularity noted in their financial audit.”3 Rest assured, whenever you put public money into private hands, corporate charlatans will find a way to pocket it. All the while saying that they are doing it for the kids, and that theirs is a kids centered agenda.

I’ve got a better idea: If corporate charter-voucher schools were obligated, like public schools, to educate every child, we would see the proliferation of charters disappear almost overnight. Take the profitability out of the equation, and charter schools would return to their original mission.

To join the fight-back against corporate charters and the privatization of public schools, join your local chapters of Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) and Parents Across America (PAA). Together, collectively, we can stop the privatization of public education by demanding people before profits.

  1. According to “Critics assail director of L.A. charter,” Mireles worked for the CCSA, he “helped set up computer and phone systems for the California Charter Schools Ass[ociation]. []
  2. Poverty pimping and privatization pushing Coro Fellows list includes: Caprice Young, Yolie Flores-Aguilar, Ryan Smith, Jordan Henry, Ricardo Mireles, Gabe Rose… []
  3. Minnesota 2020 (2008 Report). []

Robert D. Skeels is a social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He lives, works, writes, and organizes in Los Angeles with his wife and cats. Robert is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a proud member of Veterans for Peace. He attended Glendale Community College and is currently attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), majoring in Classical Civilization. Robert is a committed member of CEJ, PESJA, SCIC, and the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education. In addition to advancing working class struggles, Robert is an adherent of Liberation Theology. He devotes much time towards volunteer work for 12 step, church, and homeless advocacy. Robert’s articles and essays have appeared in publications including Schools Matter, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Daily Censored, Echo Park Patch, and The Los Angeles Daily News. In 2013 Robert ran for the LAUSD School Board against a billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, finishing second in a field of five, with over 5,200 votes. Read other articles by Robert, or visit Robert's website.