Here's a headline and intro from a recent story about the El Paso School of Excellence, one of four charter schools operated by the Rylie Faith Family, Inc (article via KFOX14):
El Paso Charter School Reportedly Threatened To Be ClosedEL PASO, Texas -- According to the superintendent of the El Paso School of Excellence, a local charter school, the owner of the charter has threatened to take action that would essentially close the school.Superintendent Jack Ammons told KFOX the family that owns the charter has threatened to return the charter back to the state....
Yes - the family that owns the charter is now threatening to shut down one of their privately run schools after more than ten years of shoddy bookkeeping, nepotism, cheating, and corruption. This isn't your run-of-the-mill charter scandal - it's almost as if they're trying to vie for the title of "America's Most Corrupt Charter School" chain (although the Imagine Schools folks probably have that title safely in their hands).
Let's go back ten years. Believe it or not, it was a full decade ago that the TEA had to step in and start regulatin' charters run by the Rylie Faith Family, which was founded by Don and Karen Belknap. Here's a clip from a 2005 article about the schools (with my bolds):
Despite all the corrective actions and the seemingly endless work by the TEA, the Belknaps have been allowed to keep their charter fiefdom (they did lose one charter a number of years ago). These days, however, it appears the Belknaps may be willing to surrender their charter instead of continuing their financial mismanagement and corrupt ways. Dr. Ammons - still working to get the charter into safe territory - closed the El Paso School of Excellence middle school due to low attendance and fired the principal, J.L. Lewis (the elementary school is still open). The most recent article about the Belknap's charter chain makes this claim:
Ammons said the threat to shut down the school was made following the termination [of J.L. Lewis].
Lewis is not only a Pentecostal minister, he's also the brother of Karen Belknap. Of course, Lewis didn't mention this fact when he was recently interviewed by KFOX14. That might make look like, oh, nepotism?
The good folks at the Texas Freedom Network were asking questions about the expansion of charters - all the way back in 2001. Check out this report, Broken Promises II: the Texas Charter School System at Five Years, which expresses concerns about financial mismanagement, nepotism, and shoddy academic practices. No matter your take on charter schools, it's awfully clear that a significant amount of regulation is necessary to prevent things like this from happening. No one gains from this scenario - well, except for the Belknaps and their well-connected pals.
At the end of the day, closing the El Paso School of Excellence mid-year (as would be the case if the Belknap's give the charter back to the State of Texas) only hurts children, families, and teachers at the school - and it'd dump students back into the public schools. The Belknaps? Heck, they'd have one less headache to attend to and their tax-funded piggy bank would dry up.
Hey - do you think another relative could hook 'em up with a job?