Imagine Schools Inc. is in the news once again for all of the wrong reasons. The sponsor of two St. Louis schools has pulled their charters. The mayor of St. Louis earlier had called for all six of the Imagine-operated schools to be closed. The remaining four were placed on probation.
Check out what a former Imagine administrator told Elisa Crouch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Kathy Smith, a former curriculum director at Imagine Academy of Cultural Arts, 1509 Washington Avenue, said (St. Louis) city schools offer kids a greater shot at an education than the St. Louis Imagine charter schools. Smith left the Cultural Arts school midyear, upset by the lack of textbooks, organization, security plans and learning.
"Even if these kids end up in city schools, they will be better off," she said. Unlike Cultural Arts, "at least there will be nurses there. They will have recess. There will be professional learning opportunities for teachers. ... No matter where they end up, it can't be as bad as Imagine was for those kids."
Let that sink in a little more: "Upset by the lack of textbooks, organization, security plans and learning."
I still hear from readers who believe charter schools are private schools, supported by private dollars. They are not. Those are public tax dollars flowing, in many cases, to for-profit businesses. Imagine Schools Inc. is one of them, with real estate entanglements that have tax dollars flowing uninterrupted to private interests. It's a great deal for the investors; not for taxpayers. The real losers, however, are students like those in St. Louis, enrolled under the lofty banner of "parental choice" in public schools without curriculum plans, textbooks and reasonable security measures.
Imagine Inc. is the largest charter school operator in the nation. It operates four Indiana schools, including Fort Wayne's Imagine MASTer Academy and Imagine on Broadway.