Things have certainly changed for Dr. Steve Ingersoll in just five short years. It was in January of 2010 when MAPSA posted this bit of news about Lake Superior State for-profit charter schools Grand Traverse Academy and Detroit Service Learning Academy getting together so DSLA could see Integrated Visual Learning at work.
“Cutting-edge philosophy in instruction” and “future in the broader scope of education,” Indeed!
In truth, Ingersoll from the very beginning saw for-profit charter schools for the tax dollar-leeching potential they held even back in the days when he convinced former charter school partner, Chuck Stockwell, IVL could cure his daughter of her inoperable brain tumor. A former teacher who worked at Livingston Developmental Academy described the shady handling of money moving from various sub-companies to others over twenty years ago.
Over the past two years, Ingersoll was indicted, tried, convicted and on December 8 will be sentenced by Judge Ludington in federal district court in Bay City. The intrepid Miss Fortune of course is the only news source in the state currently spending time pouring over letters and documents proving Grand Traverse Academy’s non-elected school board made up of Ingersoll’s family, friends and optometry buddies were all very aware of what Ingersoll was up to, yet did nothing to stop him.
GTA’s authorizer, Lake Superior State University, also did nothing to stop Ingersoll from stealing the taxpayers’ money. There’s a two page letter of hand-wringing from former Superintendent Mike Flanagan to then president of LSSU, Tony McLain with a list of suggestions to remedy the problem, including replace the board with people not related to Steve Ingersoll and ensure the board prohibits contract prepayments. LSSU as GTA’s authorizer receives 3% of the money GTA gets from the state to operate the school, and while it is the job of LSSU to make sure the school board isn’t made up of the management company’s friends, family, or business associates, they have no say in how the school board oversees payments made to the management company. Even after Flanagan asked pretty please, LSSU did nothing. Most of the people who were on the school board for GTA when Ingersoll and Bradley were indicted are still on the board right this minute. Not one thing on the list in Flanagan’s two-page letter to Dr. McLain has ever been implemented.
It’s hard to place the blame even at the state superintendent’s level, and that’s not by accident. It’s the law passed by the state legislature and signed by former Governor John Engler that created the disaster we know as Michigan’s for-profit charter school law. Who wrote that law? A name we all know and loathe when it comes to corporate school reform in Michigan – Richard McLellan.
McLellan has been a burr under the saddle in Michigan politics since 1967 when he and his University of Michigan law school buddies started Cornerstone Foundation. This organization gave birth to Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which anyone struggling to stay in the middle class in this state can tell you relentlessly works to destroy the middle class since its inception. More recently, McLellan was involved with the formation of the Education Achievement Authority and the infamous Project Skunkworks.
It was in 1990 when McLellan was on the transition team for soon to be Governor and Mackinac Center member John Engler. He went to work at that time constructing a law to fundamentally change public education in Michigan. With the help of religious extremists and deep pockets in the state, McLellan provided the leg work for what would become Michigan’s for-profit charter school malaise. John Engler signed the legislation into law, and the corporate reformers have gorged at the taxpayer trough ever since. In 20 years 232 charter schools opened in Michigan. Over 80% of them are for-profit with unelected school boards and no accountability to anyone. The law was written that way, and many of the people responsible for that happening still hold high positions in Michigan government.
Sentencing Steve Ingersoll to prison won’t begin to cure the for-profit charter school cancer killing public education in Michigan. But that was the point of charter schools in Michigan all along.