Home > Uncategorized > Primavera On-Line Program in Arizona Exemplifies Worst Elements of Deregulated Capitalism

Primavera On-Line Program in Arizona Exemplifies Worst Elements of Deregulated Capitalism

August 29, 2018

As I read these opening sentences from an AZCentral article by Craig Harris I wondered how ANY politician in Arizona could possibly support the idea of deregulated privatization of public schools:

By most academic measures, Primavera online charter school is a failure.

Its student-to-teacher ratio is 215-to-1 — 12 times the state average — allowing little or no individualized attention.

On recently released state standardized tests, less than a quarter of its students passed math and about a third passed English, both below the state average.

And 49 percent of Primavera students end up dropping out, 10 times the state average.

But by another measure, Primavera is an unmitigated success: making money.

Beginning in 2012, the school began shifting large shares of its annual $30-plus million allotment of state funding away from instruction and into stocks, bonds, mortgage-backed securities and real estate.

That year, 70 percent, or $22.4 million, of its state funding went into its growing investment portfolio — instead of efforts to raise test scores, reduce class sizes, or address an exploding dropout rate that is now the state’s third-highest.

Mr. Harris provides charts documenting this reality and then lands what I would hope would be a knockout punch:

Damian Creamer, the school’s 48-year-old founder and chief executive, later got an $8.8 million “shareholder distribution” from the for-profit company that now runs Primavera, according to an audit filed with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.

With the payout, Creamer’s compensation was 39 times the salary of the superintendent of Mesa Public Schools, the state’s largest public district. Primavera’s student body of 20,210 is less than one-third the size of Mesa’s.

It also would have made Creamer the ninth-highest-paid CEO among Arizona’s publicly held companies in 2017.

When I got to this point, I wondered how on earth ANY politician could support this blatant transfer of public funds into the pocket of a profiteering con-man. Then I read this:

Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed a bill this year removing a requirement that charters post their budgets on their websites, deflected when asked about Creamer’s pay. The focus, he said, should be on whether charter schools serve families and meet or exceed educational standards.

“I’m not concerned about the CEO,”said Ducey, a former Cold Stone Creamery CEO who received $8,000 in campaign contributions from Creamer and his wife. “That is of very little interest. I’m concerned about the child and the parent and what the child is equipped to do after 12 years of education.” 

SO, Governor, if you are so concerned about what the child is equipped to do after 12 years of education why aren’t you taking immediate action to close this travesty of school where “…less than a quarter of its students passed math and about a third passed English, both below the state average” and “49 percent of (the) students end up dropping out, 10 times the state average.” And for the life of me I cannot understand how the Governor could support a bill that allows charter schools to withhold information about how their money is spent— money that taxpayers raise to make sure that their children are well equipped after 12 years of schooling.

I found the next two paragraphs of Mr. Harris’ well researched article especially troubling and perplexing:

Curt Cardine, a former charter school executive who has become a watchdog with Phoenix-based Grand Canyon Institute, said he believes Primavera’s transactions are allowed under Arizona’s charter school laws. But, he added, they’re “not ethical.” 

“I think the public would think it’s wrong,” he said. “The whole philosophy behind this is that greed is good.” 

This is troubling because I think Mr. Cardine is correct: the pilfering of taxpayers funds by the likes of Primavera’s CEO IS legal… and perplexing because I fear that voters will not punish the legislators who passed this law that at its roots is unethical.

Arizona is about to have an election for Governor and for most of it’s State legislators. I hope that this bill passed in the last session is a political issue and I hope that both candidates support its repeal…. but after reading this article I am not optimistic. I encourage you to read it in its entirety… but to have antacids near at hand when you do so. It’s hard to believe voters are not up at arms over this.

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