Imagine if a public school district announced it was opening a new school, not based on overcrowded classrooms or outdated facilities, but simply because it wanted to offer a school with a different theme.
Then imagine if the school board contracted with an out-of-state company to buy, renovate and lease a building to house the school. The long-term contract would allow for automatic inflation increases in six-figure annual lease payments.
Then imagine that company officials began boasting about their attractive returns on investment in public schools.
Would there be outrage? You bet.
Now imagine that instead of a local school district, the public entity was a charter school. Would there be the same outrage over accountability for public dollars?
Apparently not. The cost of Imagine Schools properties in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, owned by Entertainment Properties Trust, have aroused not a single word of protest from any elected official, including those who routinely gripe about public-school spending. Either they don't understand that taxpayers are picking up the bill or they don't want to criticize charter schools in any way.
Incredibly, Entertainment Properties Trust's name has surfaced once again in Fort Wayne, this time in connection with the proposed Thurgood Marshall Academy. Surely, some elected official could start to connect the dots here.
Dave Bangert, columnist and opinion page editor at the Lafayette Journal & Courier, commented on school reform money-making opportunities in this column. I think he's too harsh in suggesting that Ed Eiler, superintendent of Lafayette School Corp., is paranoid over attacks on traditional public schools.
After all, sometimes they really are out to get you.