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Imagine Inc., Vegas-style

Imagine Inc. is in the news again -- this time in Nevada,

where the Las Vegas Sun reports on questions about local control at two Las Vegas-area charters. Parents are happy with the academic operations at the schools, but are increasingly questioning how the business side is handled.

"Nevada's charter schools, like all other publicly funded campuses, face 6.9 percent reductions in state support. (Imagine of the Valle and 100 Academy charter schools) are locked into operating agreements with Imagine that guarantee the company 12 percent of all revenue, on top of the rent that must be paid to Schoolhouse LLC, that handles Imagine's real estate holdings.

"The company also owns all of the school's instructional supplies and materials and it's Imagine's name on the property lease."

The newspaper report practically mirrors the operating model of the Imagine schools here in Fort Wayne.

Update: One of the founding members of Imagine East Academy in Indianapolis told me that about 200 people attended a community meeting there last month to discuss concerns about the school. Members of the Indiana General Assembly's Black Caucus and the NAACP were also in attendance. Dr. Theron Williams, who is no longer a member of the local board, is among community members questioning hiring practices at the school. He said a committee is working on a formal complaint to be filed with Ball State University, the school's sponsor.

As is the case with most Imagine Schools, the real estate arm of Imagine Inc. bought the Imagine East Academy building, formerly a property owned by Williams' church. According to Williams, Imagine is now charging the school about $90,000 a month for the building. He said an appraisal less than two years ago set the lease value at $10,000-$12,000 a month.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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