Sunday, July 20, 2014

"We couldn't even afford one Mercedes Benz at Next Generation"

Bigger story coming up on charter school corruption. One of the major sources will be this stunning series from the Sun-Sentinel. Florida, like Michigan, has long been on the cutting edge of the charter school movement, not just in terms of funding but with freedom as well. Both states bet heavily on the idea that regulation of charters would hinder innovation while school choice would make close oversight unnecessary. 

One result has been a number of charters run by characters with rather interesting backgrounds. From the Sun-Sentinel, Karen Yi and Amy Shipley describe a notable example.
It’s unclear how Next Generation spent the nearly $1 million it received in tax money before closing down in April 2013. The charter school failed to file several required monthly financial reports and a mandatory end-of-the-year audit. Records show the school owed more than $2 million to creditors and $55,000 to the Broward school district.

Two management companies separately operated the school during its eight-month tenure.

Cory MacNeille founded Next Generation and created the first for-profit company to operate it. She then hired her mother, Judy Perlin, of Boca Raton, to join her in managing the school, records show.

In the previous decade, state investigators repeatedly had cited the two with misusing federal money under a program to provide meals for low-income children in South Florida, state public records and court documents show. The two ran Riverwood Youth Opportunities, Inc., a nonprofit.

In 2004, state officials found Perlin’s nonprofit improperly used federal dollars to lease two Mercedes Benz vehicles for her and her daughter; pay for lodging and meals at a Club Med; and purchase two airfares and lodging for travel to Garden City, N.Y. The organization was ordered to repay the state.

In 2005, the state health department said Perlin, the nonprofit’s CEO, let her daughter use federal dollars to advertise a personal business. The state temporarily barred both from the meal program.

In 2010, Perlin pleaded guilty to bribery charges related to the meals program and admitted taking $40,000 in kickbacks. She was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and placed on two years’ probation.

Once Perlin and her daughter departed, the board hired a new management company, headed by Trayvon Mitchell.

Teachers said the school continued to decline, failing to prepare students for required state tests and neglecting students with special needs.

The school shut its doors weeks before the last day of school.

Mitchell could not be reached for comment. MacNeille and Perlin did not respond to specific questions about the state’s findings against them or the school’s finances.

“I think charter schools are very difficult, and I think they are underfunded,” MacNeille said.

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