Who knew? Certainly not Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "I can't believe it's not a crime!" he said when he found out that charter school operators were pocketing
and investing millions of dollars the state pays them to educate our children. "I'm not only shocked, but I'm disappointed."
Brnovich must be new to the concept of privatizing government and profiting handsomely from public funding. For instance, he probably doesn't know much about the Arizona's conservative/libertarian Goldwater Institute, which advocates for privatization and deregulation. Wait, check that. He was Director of the Goldwater Institute's Center for Constitutional Government. OK, so maybe he doesn't have any real world experience with for-profit businesses which make big money by performing government services. Wait, check that too. He was Senior Director for the Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison company.
I guess it's possible Brnovich hasn't read or seen the many news stories about charter schools misusing state funds during his years in Arizona, or heard the topic mentioned in the halls of government. Possible, but not likely.
So why this sudden concern about charter schools ripping off the public and his call for "a mechanism . . . to make sure that charter schools . . . are not enriching themselves at the expense of students"? Here are four good reasons.
1. He's running for office in a year Democrats look like they have a shot at winning statewide races.
2. He has an able, hard working Democratic challenger, January Contreras, who has a strong record of serving and protecting Arizonans.
3. Education is the top issue for most Arizonans.
4. He's one of 20 attorneys general who signed onto a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. If they're successful, insurance companies can refuse to cover people with preexisting conditions. He'd rather talk about how much he loves children and education than how he's working to deny people health coverage.
The first three reasons are self explanatory. Number four deserves more explanation.
Starting this Wednesday, a lawsuit brought by 20 Republican attorneys general is being heard in Texas. It's an attack on the remaining parts of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which has already been gutted by Republicans. If they can't get rid of the entire law, they say at the very least they want to do away with protections for preexisting conditions. Though the case is called Texas v. United States, the Trump administration has sided with the plaintiffs. Republicans are all in for ACA repeal. A group of Democratic attorneys general is fighting to preserve it.
What's left of Obamacare, especially the protections for people with preexisting conditions, is popular these days, so popular Democratic candidates are attacking Republicans for wanting to get rid of it. Brnovich has every reason to worry the lawsuit will come back to bite him in November. So his outrage over charter school profiteering is his way of telling voters, "Pay no attention to the anti-Obamacare A.G. behind the curtain. I am the Great and Powerful Defender of education and good government. That's the Brnovich you want to vote for."
Credit Where Credit Is Due For Great Charter School Reporting
: Craig Harris at the Arizona Republic has done important work lately uncovering the greedy, sometimes immoral underbelly of the charter school sector. A charter school exec got a finder's fee
for placing children in charters, using insider information to make the deals. A charter school withheld merit pay bonuses
from teachers. The CEO of an online charter made over $8 million
and created a $36 million investment portfolio using state education funding. That's a sample of the many stories Harris has written pointing out the need for greater regulation and oversight of the state's charter schools. If we get better charter school laws, it will be due in part to the power of the press and diligent investigative reporters like Harris.
(An unimportant but amusing [to me] coincidence. When Harris worked in Portland, Oregon, he coached football at Clackamas High, where I was teaching at the time, though we never crossed paths. As he noted when he mentioned it to me: "Funny small world." Indeed it is.)