"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Child Labor to Build Charter Real Estate Empires

The real estate part of charter scam has always been the germinating monstrosity underneath the self-serving do-gooderism of the billionaire tax-sheltering paternalists whose aim has been and remains to convert the children of the poor into productive robots in the multi-billion dollar testing sweat shops that have replaced schools across urban America. 

It is a movement that occupies the moral bottom of a cavernous culture of greed and cynicism that would make the most jaded and inhumane 19th Century baron blush, and the movement is manned by privileged fascist camp guards who falsely claim to be educators.  No educator would quietly submit to the degradation and inhumanity that is at the heart of the "no excuses" charter movement that routinely dehumanizes children for the sake of creating brand names based on test score production and robotic behavior.

There a special circle of hell reserved for these monstrous capitalists, pious pretenders, charlatans, and crass abusers of the public trust, who are intent upon building profitable empires with public dollars on the backs of the most vulnerable children of America. 

From the Wall Street Journal:
Real-estate investors are showing an increasing interest in charter school development as the demand grows for classroom seats and some state and local governments become more willing to help finance charter-school projects.

Almost all charter schools are operated by nonprofit organizations. But these groups often rent and buy their buildings from private real-estate developers, and that is creating a new niche asset for some investors.

One of the latest entrants to the charter real-estate business is Northstar Commercial Partners, a Denver-based private-equity firm that is raising a $100 million fund. It will focus on converting charter schools out of vacant office, industrial and retail properties that can be purchased for less than half of what they would cost to build, according to Northstar Chief Executive Brian Watson.

Meanwhile, investment manager Bobby Turner, who founded Turner Impact Capital LLC in 2013, is raising his second fund with tennis legend Andre Agassi for building new charter schools, this one with a goal of $400 million.

And established players in the business are seeing volume increases on charter school developments. For example, a venture of HighMark School Development and EPR Properties, a real-estate investment trust, spent more than $118 million in 2014 on acquisition, renovation and construction, compared with $34 million in 2011.

“There’s no shortage of cash,” said Patrick Beausoleil, a HighMark vice president.

The rise in investment activity partly reflects the growth of the charter school movement, which has been overcoming political opposition in many states. During the 2014-2015 school year, 500 new public charter schools opened nationwide, for a total of more than 6,700 enrolling about 2.9 million students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Some states are beginning to make financing tools available to charter schools that had been limited to traditional public schools. For example, the states of Texas, Colorado and Utah now backstop tax exempt bond issues for some charter schools, reducing their capital costs when acquiring facilities, according to Scott Rolfs, managing director of B.C. Ziegler & Co., a niche investment-banking firm that has underwritten more than $600 million in charter school bonds.

But the growing role of for-profit real-estate developers has added a new dimension to the debate over charters, which are taxpayer funded and independently operated schools that are largely free of union rules. Critics say charter schools are in danger of cutting costly deals with developers who are more concerned with investment return than educating children. The result can lead to failed schools.

Even people in the business warn that the charter school owners need to beware when agreeing to lease and buy buildings from private players. Charter schools often are launched in church basements or donated space by well-intentioned people who lack the financial sophistication to take their operations to the next level.

“There is a ton of capital coming into the industry,” Mr. Rolfs said. “The question is: Does it know what it’s doing? I don’t know yet.”

People involved in the charter school movement say for-profit participation is critical for the industry’s growth. The capital sources available from foundations and other nonprofit sources aren’t sufficient to keep up with demand, they say.

“The challenge is too large for the nonprofit sector to solve,” said Reena Abraham, a vice president with Local Initiatives Support Corp., a nonprofit that has helped about 189 charter schools obtain some $276 million in grants, loans and tax credits.

Some of the newer entrants to the business say investors in charter schools can do well by doing good. For example, Northstar tries to structure its deals with school operators so that no more than 12% of their revenue goes to facilities.

At the same time, Northstar believes it can give its fund investors more than a 10% return on their money. Part of its formula is buying buildings for a fraction of their cost and cutting deals with operators with a proven track record. . . .

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