Diane Ravitch's Blog: Arizona Voters: Did You Pay for the $8.4 Million NYC Condo for BASIS Charter Founders?

Columnist E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic is all over the charter scams that are common in his state.

One of his favorite subjects is the BASIS charter chain, which is regularly lauded by the national media as sponsor of the number one high schooling the nation, because of the AP courses that its students pass. Montini knows that BASIS regularly weeds out the students it doesn’t want by setting expectations higher than most students can meet. 

He also knows that BASIS is a honeypot for its founders. 

Look at the folks who founded Basis Charter Schools, Michael and Olga Block.

These are public schools.

They’re funded with tax dollars. Your money.

In fact, as The Arizona Republic’s Craig Harris pointed out in a May 7 article, Basis receives more in basic per-pupil funding than traditional public schools.

At the same time, Basis asks parents to “donate” at least $1,500 per child each year, which it says is used to improve teacher pay.

Sort of a de facto tuition that is way, way cheaper than private school (because taxpayers are funding the rest.)

Essentially, Basis Charter Schools, a tax-exempt non-profit corporation, gets to operate like a private company while using the public’s money. And the founders — among others affiliated with the operation — have done very well.

As Harris so succinctly pointed out:

As Scottsdale parents were receiving yet another solicitation for donations to pay teachers, the Blocks made a $1.68 million down payment on an $8.4 million condominium in New York City, property records show. 

Their Manhattan home is in a 60-story building with “breathtaking panoramas” of the city, an infinity pool, and an indoor/outdoor theater, according to a sales brochure. It is located near two private Basis schools controlled by the Blocks. Tuition at those schools is more than $30,000 a year.

Arizona has little to no accountability for charter schools. They can use public money to build new buildings, which then are private property. They can use public money to pay their family members or themselves. No one cares. The state makes rules, but if no one follows them, that’s okay. The audits are a joke or don’t happen. It’s a scam, Montini writes. 

The owners get to pay themselves with your money, hire their relatives, avoid the bidding process for work and make very little of their financial practice available for you to see.

It’s the opposite of regular public schools

It’s a perfect scam. The opposite of regular public schools. Lawmakers and politicians like Gov. Doug Ducey go along with it because they hate teacher unions and because charter owners are big supporters of their careers.

But ask yourself this:

Who was the last person working in a regular public school who could afford a house in Tucson, a house in Scottsdale and an $8.4 million condo in New York City with “breathtaking panoramas?” 

As long as their schools produce high test scores, who cares about the money, right?

This blog post, which first appeared on the

website, has been shared by permission from the author.
Readers wishing to comment on the content are encouraged to do so via the link to the original post.
Find the original post here:

The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She serves on the board of the Core Knowledge Foundation, Common Core, the Albert Shanker Institute of the American Federation of Teachers, and Common Good. She is an honorary life trustee of the New...