J. C. Huizenga recently commented on the 20-year history of his for-profit charter school chain, National Heritage Academies, in an MLive.com article. He claimed their success came from superior academics and being financially strong. There’s so much more to National Heritage Academies, how they started, how they really make their money to be financially strong, and their affiliation with Religious Right organizations.
Huizenga mentions being on the board of TEACH Michigan in the 1990s. TEACH Michigan and TEACH Michigan Education Fund were both formed to change education law in the state of Michigan. Established in 1989 by Paul DeWeese (Yes, THAT Paul DeWeese), both organizations were organized and operated by people associated with Michigan Family Forum – the state branch of Focus on the Family, Mackinac Center, Richard McLelland, former governor John Engler, with plenty of DeVos, Prince, Meijer, M.J, Moroun money to fund them. This group is responsible for changing the Michigan State Constitution to allow for-profit charter schools to take money from real public schools in Michigan. Back in the 1990’s, DeWeese likened reforming education in Michigan to competing car companies selling cars because cars are just like schools and all you have to do to know if you’ve picked a good school for your children is kick the tires.
All of the records from TEACH Michigan, now Partnership for Learning, are archived at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. Permission to view the records may only be granted by Paul DeWeese.
Huizenga’s financial success comes from the outrageous million dollar rents charged to National Heritage Academies’ 47 schools in Michigan for the buildings they lease. These schools are all K-8, which is cheaper to operate than high schools. For every $7,000 per-pupil tuition grant National Heritage Academies receives from the state, only $5,000 is spent on teaching students. Remember, for-profit charter schools have to make a profit before educating students.
How about J.C. Huizenga’s claim that National Heritage Academies are academically superior? out of the 47 for-profit charter schools operating in the state of Michigan, only 7 out-perform real public schools in Michigan. another 22 perform at the same level as the state’s real public schools. The rest perform far below public school rankings.
National Heritage Academies are part of the Religious Right’s efforts to eliminate public schools in Michigan. When Huizenga says, “we’ve gotten results,” what he really means is, “I’m getting fabulously rich not only collecting people’s garbage, but shoving garbage schools down the taxpayers’ throats.” Since the first days the Religous Right schemed to destroy public education, J.C. Huizenga was right there with them, doing his part.