Wild Wild West: Arizona’s Charter School Experiment

Did you hear the one about the Arizona state legislator who made a cool $14 million from selling his network of charter schools to a nonprofit that he set up, which then inked a lucrative lease deal with him, hired him as a consultant, and hired his brother as the chief executive? That’s just one of the stories of charter school fraud and corruption that Craig Harris and his colleagues at the Arizona Republic exposed in their award-winning series “The Charter Gamble.”

In the latest episode of Have You Heard, we talk to Harris about how charter schools became Arizona’s new cash crop. You can read a full transcript of the episode here. And if you’re a fan of Have You Heard, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon.

Screw U

Betsy DeVos’ top advisor led a for-profit university that defrauded students and hoovered up federal student aid. Now Robert Eitel is tasked with *right-sizing* the Department of Education. What could possibly go wrong?

Jennifer Berkshire: This week Betsy DeVos announced that she was tasking one of her top advisors, Robert Eitel, formerly of Bridgepoint Education, Inc., with overseeing the *right sizing* of the Department of Education. Bridgepoint has something of, um, an interesting backstory that I’d like you to walk us through. Start in 2005 when the company purchased a nun-run Iowa college and blew it up into an online behemoth.

Christopher Crowley: So Bridgepoint Education was started by a group of former University of Phoenix executives who were able to get Wall Street seed money and then used that money to buy a small college in Iowa called the Franciscan University of the Prairies. When Bridgepoint bought the college in 2005, there were around 300 students enrolled, taught mostly by the nuns who founded the school. Bridgepoint changed the name of the school to Ashford, and by 2010 there were more than 80,000 students enrolled, mostly online. That’s huge. Continue reading →