Stephanie Simon, of Reuters News, has written extensively about the “education reform” movement, including articles about Connecticut’s new “reform” law.
Today, the news is that wealthy individuals from China and other countries are, “spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools.”
Simon provides a number of examples, including a new charter school in Buffalo, New York, a sixth campus for an Arizona charter school chain and a foreign investment program in Florida charter schools that is attracting up to $90 million dollars a year.
For half a million dollars, foreign investors can buy themselves and their families a set of “EB-5” visas.
The federal “economic development” program provides permanent visas to foreign investors who are willing to invest in a company that “creates or preserves at least 10 jobs in two years.”
Between January and September of 2012, the Department of Homeland Security reports that the number of people applying for EB-5 visas was about 3,000, “nearly twice as many as were approved all last year.”
There is even a new investment niche to link foreign investors with charter schools. A company called the Education Fund of America has already put together investment packages for 11 charter schools in North Carolina, Utah and Arizona. The head of the fund says he has, “four more deals in the works.”
An Arizona charter school company, that already runs three charter schools, told Reuters that they “couldn’t believe how easy it was to secure $4.5 million in funding from abroad.”
Simon explains that, “Well-established and successful chains of charter schools, such as KIPP, Green Dot or Achievement First, receive hefty support from philanthropic foundations and private donors. The chains can also tap into financing provided by an array of for-profit and non-profit investment funds created for that purpose.”
Achievement First, Inc., of course, is the charter school management company that was co-founded by Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. After serving as a Director for Achievement First, Inc., for eight years, Pryor resigned to accept to position of Education Commissioner in Governor Malloy’s administration.
With 20 charter schools already in place in Connecticut and New York, the Connecticut Board of Education has now granted Achievement First permission to expand their schools in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport.
The story does not indicate whether foreign investment dollars have made their way into Connecticut, but ironically, as Reuters reports, “Fitch Ratings warned it was likely to downgrade bonds backed by charter schools because the sector is volatile and the schools are highly leveraged. Such risks mean charter-school debt is typically considered speculative, rather than investment grade…”
Simon’s national story can be found via the Hartford Courant website at: http://www.courant.com/news/nation-world/sns-rt-us-usa-education-charter-visasbre89b07k-20121011,0,3974014,full.story