Updated April 29: The state of Michigan has agreed to loan Muskegon Heights $1.4 million to meet payroll and pay its debt to Mosaica Education.
Well, it’s about time.
Muskegon Heights finally dumped Mosaica Education, or Mosaica dumped Muskegon Heights would be a more accurate description. The for-profit charter management company simply couldn’t turn a trick in the fiscally challenged district, so in a mutually agreed upon decision, the school board voted to end its contract with the company. Mosaica cited their inability to make a profit on the venture.
Yes, when the rubber hits the road in the privatization race, sometimes the result is a total blowout for unbridled capitalism.
Muskegon Heights is conducting a search for a replacement management company.
If you missed it, here’s what Democracy Tree reported last week about Mosaica’s checkered history, here in Michigan and across the nation:
When the Muskegon Heights School Board voted several years ago to willingly forgo home rule and submit to emergency management to handle their fiscal crisis, the story didn’t get the attention it deserved because the move was “voluntary” — it lacked that certain dictatorial feel for journalists to stand-up and take notice. The first act of the emergency manager was to convert the district into a public school academy to be administered by a for-profit management company, Mosaica Education. They were charged with turning the district around both academically and financially.
Under Mosaica management, Muskegon Heights School Academy ran out of money two weeks ago and couldn’t meet payroll. The state had to front them $231,000 to keep the doors open. At the time, their attorney referred to the problem as an accounting “glitch”. Perhaps the fact that the school ended fiscal year 2013 with more than half a million in red ink is similarly just a “glitch”.
Founded in 1977 by Gene Eidelman, Mosaica Education currently manages about 90 schools generating more than $125 million on revenue. Their mission statement reads: “To empower students to learn and achieve — every child, every day.”
Their rap sheet doesn’t bear that out:
January this year, Atlanta Public Schools decided not to renew the contract with Mosaica to run the Atlanta Preparatory Academy, citing poor academic performance and shaky financials. The recommendation for closure came from Alan Mueller, an executive with APS, who is also a former executive of Mosaica. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
…Mueller, a former Mosaica executive, said the school’s performance is a continuing concern. “There are four schools in the neighborhood that out-perform Atlanta Prep in math,” he said. The small percentage of money it spends on classroom instruction is troubling as well, he said.
Last school year Atlanta Preparatory received $4,629,276 from APS. According to the school, 49 percent of that was spent on classroom instruction. Mueller said he is not opposed to for-profit charter management companies “if they deliver. But they aren’t delivering. And we want as much money as possible going into the classroom.”
According to Mueller, the K-8 school with about 450 students ranks in the bottom 20 percent of schools statewide in academic performance; its enrollment is 45 percent lower than originally projected; and it owes $801,384 to for-profit education management company Mosaica Education, Inc.
In December of 2012, the Mosaica-managed STEAM Academy of Winston-Salem hired a new school administrator named Susan Lawyer Willis just prior to their annual standardized testing. Mosaica admitted that, at the time of hire, they knew she had been fired from her previous job amid test scandal allegations. In April of 2013, the Winston-Salem Journal reported:
Lawyer Willis declined to discuss the issue Monday with the Winston-Salem Journal, following a lengthy article Sunday on the school’s financial problems and its need to pass state end-of-grade tests or face revocation of its charter, which would effectively close the school.
Lawyer Willis was accused of juggling class schedules for 31 students at Fleming High School in Roanoke, Va., so they wouldn’t have to take end-of-year Standards of Learning tests, which are similar to North Carolina’s end-of-grade tests. A Virginia Department of Education investigation found that she and other school administrators were “responsible for egregious violations” and that “course schedules were manipulated for the purpose of influencing (Fleming High School’s) pass rates” in 2008 and 2009.
In 2008, the Howard Road Academy, run by Mosaica, was found to be cheating on standardized tests, by literally supplying students with the test and the correct answers prior to the exam. The Washington Post reports:
The teacher at Howard Road Academy Public Charter School suspected something was seriously amiss in April when a student taking the math portion of the DC-CAS standardized test announced that she was finished — way early.
“You can’t be finished. Go back and check your work,” the teacher said.
“We did this yesterday. I know all of the answers,” the student said.
The scene comes from a report by school officials detailing the investigation of a cheating scandal at their G Street campus in Southeast D.C. When the probe was done, an administrator and two teachers were dismissed and 27 fourth and sixth-graders had their test scores invalidated.
The report also strongly suggests that school politics may have helped create an environment in which cheating could take root. It includes a letter of “reprimand” and another of “admonishment” to two unnamed Howard Road employees from Mosaica Education Inc., the company that operates Howard Road and charter schools in eight states.
And in 2006, the Times-Picayune reported on troubles with Mosaica’s management of the Lafayette Charter School in New Orleans. The management company had been contracted to run the school after the flood, amid a flurry of post-Katrina charter take-overs. Within days of the school re-opening, irregularities emerged — among them were curriculum problems, failure to produce a contractually agreed after-school program for struggling students, and the absence of required transportation for students.The school district sued, and was awarded a $350,000 judgement against Mosaica.