This comment was submitted to the Lake County Star in response to their story about for-profit charter school Gateway To Success Academy’s presentation to the Baldwin Community Schools board. The Lake County Star did not publish the comment.
Last week, the Lake County Star reported Jamie Bandstra presented the new for-profit charter school, Gateway To Success Academy, to the Baldwin Community Schools Board. This is the last thing Superintendent Stiles Simmons and the community need to welcome to Lake County.
Jamie Bandstra was the principal of Journey Junior Senior High School in Scottville, an alternative education program providing 125 at-risk students with a pathway to high school graduation. He took that opportunity away from those young people when he pursued his plan to create direct competition with real public schools in the region. This profit first business could potentially take students away from Baldwin Community Schools, and with them funding Baldwin schools need.
Journey Junior Senior High School closed at the end of the 2015 school year. The former students are not guaranteed admission into Gateway To Success Academy, they have to apply along with other students. None of the former Journey staff were offered jobs either. For-profit charter schools routinely pay their staff less money than public schools, with fewer benefits and without the job security public school teachers have.
Gateway To Success is modeled after High Tech High, a chain of for-profit charter schools in San Diego, California. Parent and student reviews about these schools are very mixed. Many cite having to take remedial classes in college because High Tech High didn’t provide enough core subject instruction needed to do well in higher education. Their claim that 100% of their graduates were accepted into college is accomplished by requiring all of their students to apply to community colleges. This is not the model of “school choice” we need in Lake County.
For-profit charter schools have received well-deserved negative press recently. In 2014, the Detroit Free Press published a week-long expose on the billions spent on for-profit charter schools with very little to show for the money the state of Michigan gives them. Last month, the Center for Media and Democracy published a study that showed the Michigan Department of Education handed out nearly $2 million to “ghost” charter schools that never opened. Charter school scandals in Muskegon Heights and Pontiac are both centered on missing taxpayer money. Steve Ingersoll, founder of Grand Traverse Academy and Bay City Academy will be sentenced on December 8 for federal felony fraud after depositing nearly half of a $2 million line of credit into his personal bank account in an attempt to cover up $3.5 million he embezzled from Grand Traverse Academy.
With so much evidence showing for-profit charter schools only cause more problems for Michigan communities, I hope Superintendent Simmons and Baldwin Community Schools carefully consider the problems a for-profit charter school competing with our public schools for funds will cause for the community. Lake County can’t afford for-profit education like Gateway To Success Academy.