Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joe Riley's Giving Up on CCSD

An appropriate reminder from February 2009. Questions remain unanswered.

According to Tuesday's P & C (which provides precious little information on the principals in the deal), Charleston Mayor Joe Riley plans to go into the school business. [See Deal for School to Benefit City.]

How else to explain the City of Charleston's spending almost $5 million to put a private school on the upper peninsula? The "deal" for local taxpayers goes something like this: we pay almost $5 million for a property now owned by SCE&G; then we rent the land to a private school for $10 per year for 50 years.
"Riley said the ultimate cash cost could be much lower because the city hopes to arrange land deals with the utility and to find sites in Charleston for needed sub-stations."
"Could be"? "Hopes to"?

Why, this efficient use of taxpayer dollars is breathtaking in its simplicity! Maybe Riley can find more million-dollar properties to purchase with our money and rent out to other private schools under similar contracts! By 2060 the taxpayers will have reaped the rewards. Yes?

Wouldn't you love to see the business model for Meeting Street Academy? It must be a real winner. After all, so far the school's been in session with "about forty preschoolers" for a total of six months. Further, do we dare ask where the $9 million estimated to build the school will come from? One hopes that also won't involve "a unanimous recommendation by [City] council's Real Estate Committee."

You know, it's strange, but I could have sworn that the City of Charleston already had a school system. Perhaps Mayor Riley plans a District 20 overlay?

The kicker? "Sherman Financial Group, the school's backer, is a company that buys distressed debt." That's right--debt collectors, big time and not always on the up and up. On second thought, I guess we know where the $9 million will originate.

Try Googling.


Anonymous said...

A lot of useful information about this new school was left out of the report. The shrinking Post and Courier explains only part of why this story didn't do much more than scratch the surface. From what little I already know about this school and why it was started it really is a story well worth telling. The question that won't be answered, however, is why an alternative to the existing schools on the peninsula is needed in the first place.

It does seem odd that the mayor has become so actively involved in promoting this PRIVATE school while so many of Charleston's historic schools been abandoned in every possible way by the city. Our mayor has, at best, ignored downtown's public primary and secondary educational institutions for 34 years.

I won't begrudge the city supporting a well intended private program, but I have a real problem with how this looks after Riley and his hand picked CCSD representatives continue to block charter schools. This makes CCSD's rent argument look pretty strange. CCSD says that it should charge the public rent for use of one of its own schools. Even if it is a charter PUBLIC school, what better way to make use of a vacant school now that CCSD will have so many of them? With this news we learn the city is now buying property and setting long term leases at a nominal charge to benefit a PRIVATE school. I thought the city got out of the school business a long time ago. Of course, that's only the mayor's official stance when it's more convenient to duck the issues he helped create.

Yep, there's a story there, but no one's telling it.

Babbie said...

I'd really be interested to know the "story worth telling." How about it?