Operating Some of Michigan's Best Public Schools is Not A Crime

Politician would make it one, while genuine crooks really were ripping-off schools not far away

A Democratic politician went to extreme lengths recently to express her party’s opposition to public charter schools, whose boards sometimes contract with for-profit education management companies to operate their schools.

State Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton, offered an amendment to the 2017-18 state education budget that would have made it a crime for a for-profit charter management company to operate a charter school.

Pagan’s amendment would have defined the act of a charter school contracting with a private management firm as “educational profiteering,” and a form of embezzlement under the state criminal code. The amendment failed by a voice vote on May 2.

ForTheRecord: Providing students with some of the best public schools in the state is not a crime.

Crimes are committed in Michigan schools, however, including some recent ones just 30 miles from Pagan’s House district.

Criminal charges were filed against 13 high-ranking Detroit Public Schools officials for an illegal bribery and kickback scheme in March 2016. One of the 13, 12 entered into plea bargain deals; a jury found the 13th guilty of conspiracy and bribery charges.

In April 2012, Highland Park Schools board member Robert Davis was indicted on charges of theft. Davis submitted false invoices totaling $446,000, according to the now-defunct district. Davis entered into a plea agreement and served a sentence in a federal prison.

By some definitions, the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, may be said to have engaged in educational profiteering in the pension-spiking deals arranged for its past three presidents.

At least four MEA officials parlayed their status as former school employees “on leave” at the union into six-figure government pensions that are based on their six-figure salaries as union presidents, not their lower salaries as school employees. For example, outgoing MEA President Steve Cook was able to translate his $212,649 union salary into an estimated $115,871 a year boost in his state pension.

The MEA has contributed $11,500 to Pagan’s campaigns since 2013.

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