by David Safier
Leave it to EJ Montini, the caustic, curmudgeonly, it's-funny-but-it-ain't-funny columnist for the Republic to lay out one of the problems with Arizona charter schools: Nobody knows what they do with their the taxpayers' money.
[Arizona politicians] happily allow these particular public schools to keep secret the salaries of administrators and teachers; to have unelected school boards that can be stacked with the family members, and to hand out lucrative contracts to board members and administrators without competing bids.
He does a wonderful job of skewering Goldwater Institute's Clint Bolick for his blatant hypocrisy on the matter. First Montini compliments G.I.'s brainpower by saying it "fuels the brains of many Arizona legislators, who otherwise would run on empty." Then he notes that Bolick is one of the directors of BASIS Schools Inc., which means Bolick has a vested interest in keeping salaries quiet and contracts selective.
One thing Montini doesn't mention, so I'll add it here, is that BASIS Schools Inc. is a for-profit corporation. Each BASIS school is nonprofit, but 70% of the funds they get from taxpayers is sucked up by the for-profit corporation, where the money disappears from sight. While people can get a picture of how nonprofits spend their funds by looking at their 990 tax forms that are posted on the web, for-profit tax returns are private. One small example: we used to know the salary BASIS founder Michael Block received when all of BASIS was nonprofit. Now that BASIS Schools Inc. is expanding rapidly in Arizona and beginning to open schools across the country, for all we know, he makes millions a year. It's all hidden behind the corporation's for-profit status.