National Heritage Academies (NHA), the largest charter management company in Michigan, has what the Detroit Free Press’ Jennifer Dixon calls “an unusual arrangement with its schools.” John Chamberlin analyzes that arrangement in Dixon’s “Public money for schools buys private property,” posted in the December 14 edition of the Free Press.
According to Dixon, NHA “owns the contents of its school buildings, even though the desks, computers, books and supplies may have been purchased with taxpayer money.” Dixon further states that NHA also owns most of its managed school buildings; by owning all the contents of a school – including the school itself – charter school boards have little to no leverage to remove NHA if the school boards are unhappy with NHA’s management.
An NHA worker argues that his company owns school properties “because it assumes the risk involved in building and opening a school. Chamberlin, however, does not believe the public interest is most important in NHA’s dealings. “Why would the public want to let them own what they buy with public funds?” Chamberlin asks. “I see no way in which that’s good for the citizens, the taxpayers of Michigan.”
John R. Chamberlin is a professor emeritus of political science and public policy. His research interests include ethics and public policy, professional ethics, and methods of election and representation.