by David Safier
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has done terrific investigative work looking into its Imagine charter schools. Its good work was rewarded by the Missouri Press Foundation.
An investigation into real estate deals by St. Louis' Imagine schools was honored Saturday by the Missouri Press Foundation with the top investigative reporting award among large-circulation Missouri newspapers for 2011.
Post-Dispatch reporter Elisa Crouch showed how a for-profit company running charter schools was engaging in business deals that drained the schools of money for student instruction. The state has since shut down the operation.
The rents paid by Arizona's Imagine Schools are generally enormous as well. The for-profit Imagine Schools corporation often forgives the debt accumulated by the schools, only to have more debt accumulated the next year. It's the old coal company's "Company Store" situation where the school is in perpetual debt and under the thumb of the corporate leaders in Virginia. The figures can be found in the schools' state financial reports and, for those Imagine schools that are non profit, their 990 tax forms. A journalist looking for a good story might read over what's been reported in St. Louis, look at the Arizona information a mouse click away and make a few calls. I have lots of links to articles from across the country as well as information about the Arizona situation if there's an interested journalist out there. (email@example.com)