by David Safier
Great Hearts Academy charter schools ask its parents to give between $1,200 and $1,500 per student per year. From the Scottsdale Preparatory Academy website:
The essential priorities of Scottsdale Prep's educational model cost more per-student than what we receive from the state. Therefore, we ask our families to contribute to the annual Community Investment campaign and help make up that difference. . . . We ask each family to contribute $1,500 to cover the per-student gap between what we need for our academic model and what we receive from the state.
When you look at the school's contribution form, it's clear $1,500 per child is considered a minimum donation.
Parents don't have to pay, of course, but they get emails and phone calls, along with cute "give 'til it hurts" skits at parent events. The school posts names of families that made "community investments."
If you want your child to participate in sports -- and the school encourages it because PE isn't offered -- that costs $240 per sport.
And if you want your child to have textbooks, you need to pay a $175 refundable deposit for books the school supplies for free, but that's just a small portion of the books you'll need. The other books are called "Classics to Keep" at Mesa Preparatory Academy, and you have to buy them. In Grade 9, for instance, the school furnishes 4-5 books and the student has to purchase 25 or more books. The school recommends you buy the texts from ESCO books, though you can buy them elsewhere, so long as they're exactly the same editions. The school gets a 10% kickback commission on all book sales through ESCO, and it gets an 8% kickback commission on any books students sell back to the company at the end of the year.
I looked at Scottsdale Prep's state financial report. The school spends about $9,897 per student, far above the amount spent by school districts. This is at a school that's 84% white, 6% Asian and 10% Black and Hispanic and doesn't even report its free or reduced lunch figures -- probably because they're low to nonexistent. Without knowing the figures, I am virtually certain it has far fewer special education and ELL students than most school districts, and those students cost schools far more than the state funding they receive.
Charter school proponents like to talk about how lean and mean they can be financially without all those pesky unions and that burdensome district bureaucracy. It looks like Great Hearts Academies have a different model. They're giving privileged kids a private school education on the taxpayer's dime -- plus $2,000 or more per student per family to make up the difference. And it's schools like Scottsdale Prep and BASIS the "education reform" conservatives use as examples why charters provide superior education while they ignore the largely mediocre-to-poor charter schools filled with less privileged students.
LET ME KNOW IF I GOT IT WRONG, OR RIGHT: This post is based on information I gathered from Great Hearts Academy websites and information from people who commented on the blog or emailed me. If I've made any errors or left anything out, please feel free to comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I keep all emails confidential.