The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story today showing how members of the Utah Legislature pushed through certain monies years ago to be provided to charter schools. At the same time, these legislators had interest in construction companies ready to receive these monies. The groups who formed these charter schools felt that they got a raw deal from these companies.
Charter School Properties III, whose investors include current state Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, and former Utah County Republican legislators Jim Ferrin and Glenn Way, never was willing to reveal to Bishop how much it cost to build the three-year-old structure with a roof that has always leaked.
Reagan Academy, a charter school in Springville, purchased its building from Charter School Properties #4, which includes the same trio as investors. The school paid $700,000 over appraised market value. Noah Webster Academy in Orem paid $600,000 over its appraisal to Noah Webster Properties owned by Ferrin and Morley.
The private companies developing and financing charter schools in Utah stand to make enormous profit in a booming industry with little oversight and minimal competition. Without legal representation or construction expertise, some starry-eyed school founders may not be in the best position to protect their schools' interests, parents say. They make mistakes that could cost the schools and taxpayers money.
"I wish the state could find a way to not put us at the mercy of the charter developers," said Stephanie Colson, a founder of The Ranches Academy, a charter school in Eagle Mountain.
Each year, charter schools' funding and future are in the Legislature's hands. Ferrin was among lawmakers who championed legislation aiding charter school growth.
Ms. Colson may not understand that the legislature she wants to oversee and protect was the one who set this up in the first place.
Many like minded legislators are setting educational policy at the capital this week!
How do Utah legislators who behave this way remain in office session after session? They know the right words to say to get their voters salivating. The voucher result last fall may be an indication that the spell over Utah's populace is breaking. We will see in November.