NOTE: This post has been updated HERE.
The Detroit Free Press is running a spectacular, week-long series on charter schools in Michigan and the woeful lack of oversight and accountability our state exercises when it comes to charters. While some states have outright bans on for-profit schools, 61% of Michigan charter schools are run by for-profit corporations and over a third are in the bottom 25% of academic performance.
One of the main players in the for-profit charter business is National Heritage Academies, Michigan’s largest for-profit school management company. In response to this incredible journalism by the Detroit Free Press, they have purchased pretty much all of the ad space on the front page of the Free Press website this morning. Here’s a screenshot:
From the Free Press reporting yesterday:
Michigan far exceeds states like Florida, Ohio and Missouri, where only about one-third of charters were run by a full-service, for-profit management company in 2011-12, according to research by Western Michigan University professor Gary Miron, who has studied charters extensively. [...]
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, who runs the Michigan Department of Education and chairs the state Board of Education, said Michigan’s Legislature must insist on more transparency.
But Miron said the trend in Michigan and nationwide seems to be toward less transparency — such as the types of management agreements negotiated by National Heritage Academies.
The company takes 95% or more of the per-pupil taxpayer funding that its schools receive from the state, with 3% going to the authorizer and 2% or $35,000, whichever is less, given to the school board to spend at its discretion. NHA pays the bills and keeps whatever is left as profit.
Only seven of NHA’s 47 Michigan for-profit charters are in the top 25% with regard to academic performance.
The ad buy is such a perfect response from a corporate entity: use the profits obtained from our tax dollars to blanket unfavorable press with an over-the-top advertising onslaught to convince us that there is nothing to see here but happy interracial students excelling in life thanks to a for-profit charter corporation.
It’s also perfectly nauseating.
UPDATE: Leaving nothing to chance, the National Heritage Academies is blanketing the Detroit News website, as well:
UPDATE 2: Here’s the front page of the Detroit Free Press on the following day (Tuesday):
The Detroit News has the same monstrous drop-down ad that opens automatically when you first visit the sites.