Indiana's political leaders are enamored these days with the Florida education blueprint created by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
How's that working for them?
"An F-rated St. Petersburg charter school stands on the verge of collapse, mired in debt and losing enrollment. And most of those debts — around $1 million in public tax dollars — are owed to the same private company that founded it."
The story is from the St. Petersburg Times and it seems to pretty well sum up the business model of Imagine Inc., the nation's largest charter school operator. This is a for-profit real estate operation that runs schools on the side.
Indiana officials haven't figured that out, even though my colleagues at The Journal Gazette did an excellent job mapping it out in a series published late last year. Imagine operates two schools in Fort Wayne and two in Indianapolis.
As our editorial board interviewed legislative candidates in advance of last week's primary election, I asked a few of them for their views on Indiana charter schools. I was surprised at how little they knew, but how convinced they were that choice is good and that charter schools are better than traditional public schools. I came away with the impression that several legislators don't even understand that the schools are taxpayer supported. Some appear to believe that generous benefactors are supporting them.
Here's more from the St. Pete story:
"The school was $963,572 in deficit last spring, according to auditors. It's paying $881,179 to lease a half-empty building from Imagine's real estate affiliate, plus thousands more for equipment, administration and fees, on income of just $2 million a year.
" 'It's a death spiral,' said district charter supervisor Dot Clark."
I'm increasingly convinced it's going to take a mess comparable to what's going on in Florida before some Indiana lawmakers figure out what's happening here.