…National Heritage Academy and the Buffalo United Charter School teaching staff are embroiled in a legal dispute that stems from NHA’s efforts to block teachers from forming a union. In March 2009, 100 percent of the school’s teachers signed union authorization cards seeking to affiliate with New York State United Teachers – a process repeated in March 2010 when more than 90 percent of the staff also signed union cards. NHA has gone to the New York State Public Employment Relations Board to block unionization, declaring that although it receives nearly 100 percent of its revenue from local, state and federal tax dollars – and the Charter School Act clearly says that charter teachers are covered by the Taylor Law -- PERB does not have jurisdiction over NHA. Meanwhile, a judge in Brooklyn has ruled that administrators at the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School, also managed by NHA, are public school teachers covered by the Taylor Law and are permitted to organize under PERB…
At the Buffalo United Charter School, which is managed by National Heritage Academies, the parent-teacher organization is reluctant to hold bake sales, magazine sales and other fund-raisers to support student learning because under the terms of the school’s management contract, every penny collected by Buffalo United – 100 percent of all revenue – must be sent to the charter company’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich. 38 NHA collects 100 percent of the revenue at each of the three charter schools it manages in New York state. It, too, owns the buildings in which its charter schools are located. NHA’s contracts in New York stipulate that NHA “leases” its teachers, as well as the entire scope of its instructional operations, back to the school and keeps what it doesn’t spend as profit. Agreements like the one below are common:
“The Board of Trustees of the School has entered into a management agreement with National Heritage Academies, Inc. which requires NHA to provide administration, strategic planning and all labor, materials, equipment, and supervision necessary for the provision of educational services to students. As part of the consideration received under the agreement, NHA also provides the facility in which the school operates…”
Because NHA is privately held, it is impossible to learn how much it earns in profits as a percentage of school revenue and which, if any, charter founders or board members, are put on NHA’s payroll as consultants. Financial records offer a glimpse, however, of how National Heritage Academy operates.
The Buffalo United CS paid nearly $7.2 million in tax dollars it collected in the form of tuition payments to NHA in the 2008-09 school year. Of that, NHA charged Buffalo United – a school with 49 teachers and support staff, and 578 students:
· $1.34 million for the school to operate in the building NHA owns,· $976,000 for executive administration,· $361,000 in “professional fees,”· $175,000 for board oversight,· $188,000 in accounting fees,· $272,000 for technology,· $86,000 in miscellaneous fees,· $67,000 for travel,· $33,000 for marketing and business development.NHA collected nearly $3.6 million in charges and management fees. The school spent $2.7 million on salaries, benefits, food service and instruction.41
Buffalo United Charter School
A $2 BILLION DECISION: THE CASE FOR REFORMING NEW YORK’S CHARTER SCHOOL LAW, April 2010, New York State United Teachers