Will Indiana forgive $6.28 million in government loans to Imagine charter schools?


by David Safier

Imagine Schools, the charter school corporation with more schools than any other charter organization (including more than a dozen in Arizona), may not be too big to fail in Indiana. Three of its schools were shut down because of lousy performance. But it's too . . . I don't know, too charter . . . to pay back its loans. The schools borrowed $6.3 million in startup costs from the state, and they still owe $6.28 million. Indiana lawmakers are thinking about wiping the slate clean and forgiving the loans.

If these were mom-and-pop charter schools that were shut down and they didn't have a larger organization behind them, I can see how the loans could be wiped out. I guess the schools could declare bankruptcy, and that would be the end of it. But Imagine is a for profit corporation. It's hemorrhaging money right now, but that's the risk you take in a free enterprise system. If you're still in operation, you have to pay your bills, or that's how it's supposed to work. Imagine Schools should pay up.

It would be interesting to know what the $6.3 million loan paid for. Did the money go toward building the schools? If so, they should be repossessed by the state — except that what Imagine does is build schools with one part of its organization, then sell them to another corporation, which rents them back to Imagine. If that's what happened here, Imagine pocketed the profit from selling the schools which were paid for by a state loan it doesn't have to pay back. Good work if you can get it.


  1. honestly, I think they’d be stupid not to be worried. We’re a cash cow, high scoring, low problems.

    Given the losses in at least 4 states, if it starts in FL, and other BOEs start scrutinizing their practices, they stand to lose a total of 17 schools. That’s a lot of money!

  2. Thanks for the update, Tracy, I’ve been trying to keep up on the Facebook page. It sounds like everything is still in flux, but the way Imagine is stalling makes it look like they’re worried about their position.

  3. Hey, David,

    Did you see that Sarasota Board of Education is considering withdrawing the charter for ISNP?
    They are unhappy with the amount of time it’s taking for Inc. and INSP to try to work things out.
    They are unhappy that JM was told to lie on a financial audit.

    We’re hanging in there!

  4. Hello from Indiana.
    We here in Fort Wayne, IN are dismayed that Indiana taxpayers are being asked to BAIL OUT Imagine Schools to the tune of $12M in loans being forgiven. One of our Imagine Schools being closed is located on a property owned by Entertainment Property, Imagine’s for-profit REIT partner which promises a 15% return to investors on their land deals.
    It is past time that voters understand that corporate interests are taking over our state legislators and arranging deals like this one at taxpayer expense.

  5. What’s the difference in Arizona? If a charter school goes under, but they previously bought land or built buildings with State funds, the land and buildings belong to the charter school board members, none of them having been elected by any voters. They can dispose of them or keep them as the choose. Most Arizona citizens assume that if a charter school goes bankrupt or goes out of business, the property reverts to the State or local school district. Wrong.