The power of government can be instructive AND abusive.
When an operation hosted in publicly owned property is as successful as what might be considered only in ‘wildest dreams,’ it is then eyed with a lust that is found only within the failure of bureaucracy.
I’ve seen it first hand. In Grand Traverse County in 2010, a highly successful baseball program run by veterans was quite literally confiscated, and taken over by the landlords. An empire building, bureaucratic strategist, coupled with a misunderstood management glitch in the popular 62 year old program opened the door to it being taken over by the county.
The PRIVATE program which began more than a half century earlier by veterans building ball fields was summarily sequestered because the landlord didn’t like the way ‘management’ of the program was operating. The county board was convinced to back a parks decision to take the program away from the vets, and the participation dropped by 30%.
In the end, a newly elected county board (including myself) in the beginning of 2011 convinced enough of the old to give it back. In the end as well however, we should note that it was a government entity (the parks department) trying to justify its existence, (programming beyond rental of properties) show a profit (a stated argument during the takeover) and be a controlling authority.
The private sector wouldn’t tolerate such shenanigans.
If you can, imagine a mall that sees (for example) a successful orange juice business as a target for takeover. Once the location has been established, a client base built, and all the mistakes that entrepreneurs make along the way are past, the mall swoops in, cancels the lease, puts ITS equipment in the spot next door, and doesn’t allow the original store to exist on its premise.
The next stop would be the civil court system, and the likelihood of big damages awarded the original shop owner.
Charter schools that operate under lease through the local ‘authorizing boards’ are not dissimilar to the legion program I described. They are as vulnerable as the baseball program to uninformed leadership of the body politic, when driven by those who have an agenda.
Livonia Public Schools is the perfect example where collusion between the superintendent and a principal operations person resulted in the end of a highly successful charter school program. Its desired end was the continued employment of the former principal and a presumed monetary windfall for LPS.
It worked like this:
- The Hinoki Japanese-English Immersion school opened in 2010. It was to provide a place for both American and Japanese students to be educated side by side. This enhances the learning of both languages, and served a particular segment of the community. People moved their families to participate in this unique program, providing economic benefit and free market diversity to SE Michigan.
- The school has its own board of education, and was chartered though LPS until 2015, and located in leased space from LPS since 2010.
- The school has had a balanced budget as required by law since it inception, with a fund balance of 15-20% each year. The same cannot be said for LPS.
- The Hinoki school may have had ongoing issues with the ‘principal,’ a founder of the program. It was possible that his employment may have been at risk.
- LPS was facing a downturn in its student population affecting its per-pupil foundation grant revenue from the state.
- LPS Superintendent Randy Liepa claims to “have witnessed a struggle for the school to operate in the areas of management and governance,” referring perhaps to the founder/principal’s disagreement with the Hinoki board on governance. In a nutshell, he was an employee, and didn’t like it.
- Liepa promises to help Hinoki and continue its charter through the 2014-2015 school year prior to the LPS vote to create a ‘competing’ Japanese magnet program (in the same location, of course) that will require Hinoki to be gone.
- Hinoki, which is the epitome of success, showing continued growth (135 students in 2013-14 with pre-enrollment of 185 for 2014-15) and was reliant on the authorization of LPS.
- LPS enrollment in the ‘duplicate’ program now is significantly less at 130, even with Hinoki not operational this year.
- LPS now appears to have hired the former principal as a curriculum/personnel consultant in the new magnet program.
Livonia Public Schools, like many public schools, is running out of money. The chartered school under its authority, and leasing space in its buildings, shows rapid growth and a [potential] money pot for LPS…and a coincidental vote to end the lease and charter occur at the same time a competing program opens in the same location; along with the hiring of the ‘problem’ employee from Hinoki.
Yup this picture sums it up.
Whether of not one supports charter schools as a concept, this is a message that must be told and understood.
Its clear that government that is unchecked, holds nothing back when it desires something only made possible outside of it’s own construct.