Story about BASIS’ financial secrecy in the NY Times

by David Safier

An article in today's NY Times, via the Texas Tribune, discusses the way charter schools, which are funded with taxpayer dollars, hide much of their financial information from the public. The poster child: BASIS, which recently opened a San Antonio branch. BASIS's Texas application is online, but much of the application is blacked out because the charter schools are run by Basis.ed, a private, for profit corporation, and, according to the application, much of the material is "Confidential/Proprietary Information and/or Confidential/Financial Information."

It's an important story about how nonprofit charter schools like BASIS funnel most of their taxpayer dollars to for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs), also referred to as Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), where it is hidden from public scrutiny. The publicly traded corporation, K12 Inc., which runs virtual schools including Arizona Virtual Academy, is another prime example, and there are many more.

The story of the redacted BASIS application in Texas started right here. It was first reported by Ann-Eve Pedersen on the monthly cable access show she and I do, Education: The Rest of the Story. In her segment debunking the conservative myth that the business model will improve education, she displayed the BASIS application, which looks like an FBI file where entire pages are blacked out. I used her information to write the post, BASIS Charters' educational trade secrets. Some people in Texas who are concerned about the proliferation of Arizona charters like BASIS and Great Hearts in their state saw the post and the video, relayed the information to Morgan Smith, a Texas Trib reporter, and she used it as part of her article.

A national progressive education network is taking root. I email with people across the country — reporters, parents, activists, even the occasional state legislator — sharing information back and forth. The Network for Public Education (NPE), begun by Diane Ravitch, acts as a clearing house for articles, blog posts and personal stories from around the country; the post I wrote about the redacted BASIS application was reprinted in the NPE News Briefs section. Though the opulently funded conservative "education reform" movement still controls much of the educational message that comes out of the mainstream media, the grassroots progressive education movement is beginning to gain traction.

8 responses to “Story about BASIS’ financial secrecy in the NY Times

  1. Sorry, Thucydides, but BASIS should be preparing students just as well for the Ivy League as for state schools. That is an unacceptable rate for a school that constantly tells the public it is taking “ordinary” students and transforming them into “extraordinary” students. Here’s my theory: BASIS is churning out highly burnt out students who excel perhaps in taking tests but not in the skills associated with succeeding at the college level. A large number of UHS kids go on to the Ivy League, but we’re not seeing a huge drop-out rate among them. Why? Perhaps the US News and World Report rankings should be a little more comprehensive than just AP scores. And perhaps the BASIS school leaders – who pay themselves ??? (we not entitled to know that number) – should be a little bit more honest with the public about their true success rate.

  2. The unknown factor on graduation rates is the challenge associated with the colleges that BASIS students attend. Very few, 8, attended state colleges. The remainder appear to have ended up in the Ivy league. Nosebleed territory.

  3. The grad rate is a fair issue. Is it correct? Over half of all schools did not have a single graduate so while 50 percent seems weak, its actually one of the highest graduation rates in the state.

  4. Charter schools like Basis do not have democratically elected school boards they only have corporate boards answerable to shareholders not to parents no matter how much lipstick they try to put on the corporate “pig” charter schools !
    Leonard Clark
    Supporter democratically elected parental school boards .

  5. Ann, please let me know how to get ahold of the ABOR graduation rate report. You can either reply here of email me at safier@schooltales.net.

  6. Thucydides – whoever you are, since you don’t give your real name – why don’t you look at the recently released ABOR report showing graduation rates six years out from high school graduation. How is it that BASIS Tucson has a 53.8 percent graduation rate? That means almost half of its students are not graduating from college after six years. What is becoming of all these amazing test takers at this amazing school???? The comparable rate for another Tucson selective school – UHS – is 72 percent. Yes, UHS is run by TUSD – a district that folks like you love to dis. Oh, and guess what? I can easily find out how much anyone working for TUSD is paid. Not true for BASIS — so explain exactly why that secrecy with taxpayer dollars is OK. Are you perhaps paid by BASIS, O ancient Greek general who refuses to identify yourself?

  7. There is nothing secret about BASIS schools. We know exactly what they cost the taxpayer. More than $3,000 less per student than TUSD.

  8. OK, lets hit this again. The BASIS schools average academic gain is the 62nd percentile of students who are exactly like their students. That’s not a small distance from the mean. And, its gain not raw test score. Their raw test scores are off the charts. Just meaning that reaaly smart kids like to go to schools where they get even more intelligent.