by David Safier

This isn't local news, unless you acknowledge that the justly maligned, for profit Imagine Charter Schools corporation runs 14 schools in Arizona.


Six Imagine Schools in St. Louis were closed by the state because of their students' shamefully low test scores, leaving 3,800 students with no place to go. Of course, the district schools have to open their doors and welcome the students. District schools, unlike charters, have to take all comers. So the St. Louis school system is opening 3 new schools, and they'll probably be hiring some of the Imagine Schools' teachers and admininstrators.

From the stories I've heard about Imagine Schools across the country, many of the staff members are perfectly competent, but the corporation sucks all the money out of the schools, and the teachers are left without resources or guidance. Case in point from St. Louis:

Jeremy Housewright, who taught two years at Imagine Academy of Environmental Science and Math, said he was given an English class with no textbooks, reading material that did not interest middle school children and zero direction from the charter school company.

"I spent most my time gathering lesson plans on the Internet," he said.

Teachers and administrators are understandably reluctant to talk when they're employed by Imagine. It'll be interesting to see what they have to say when the schools are disbanded.

The next Imagine charter likely to fall is Imagine MASTer Academy in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where journalists have been publishing investigative reports about Imagine Schools for years. The reason for the possible closure is that the school board hasn't provided proper oversight — not surprising since the corporate office in Virginia expects the local boards to be rubber stamps for corporate policy.

What's going on in Arizona's 14 Imagine Schools, mostly located in the Phoenix area? Maybe everything's fine, but without some journalists taking an investigative peek inside, we can't know for sure.