Superintendent Ted Purcell's family has collected about $500,000 in a year running Faith Family Academy sites in Oak Cliff (pictured) and Waxahachie. Purcell cites 'the time I put in, the things I do and the things I'm responsible for.'
Focus Learning Academy, a charter school tucked in a strip mall in Dallas' Red Bird area, takes pride in teaching students with learning disabilities. For founder and Superintendent Leroy McClure, whose brother struggled with a learning disability, it's a personal mission.
McClure earns $146,000 to run the school of about 700 students, about $50,000 more than the typical superintendent of a traditional Texas school district that size.
In addition, McClure's wife, Yvette, receives $100,000 from the school for consulting work and sits on the school board. His brother serves as Focus Academy's facilities manager, and his sister is a teacher there…
The fear is that the freedoms granted to charter schools allow hefty salaries, nepotism and potential abuse of the public's money.
Yvette McClure defended Texas' many family-run charters, saying relatives bring a unique passion."They burn the midnight oil, they're here when no one else is here," she said, "and if they had to miss a paycheck, they would be the first to miss."
Debate is likely when state lawmakers meet in Austin next month. Charter school advocates and some legislators want to allow an unlimited number of charter holders in Texas instead of the current cap of 215. The number of charter schools has exploded to more than 450 because charter operators can run multiple schools…
Charter schools are funded with taxpayer dollars but enjoy freedoms traditional school districts don't, including that board members or superintendents are allowed to hire relatives.
Some Texas lawmakers and critics say the practice can lead to self-dealing and abuse.
"I'm concerned about the nepotism policies," said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. "There are inherent conflicts of interest."
Traditional school board members are elected by voters and cannot work for the school districts they oversee. With very few exceptions, board members and superintendents cannot hire relatives…
A Dallas Morning News review of public records and databases found nepotism in charter schools across Texas, along with many administrators earning six-figure salaries to run charter schools with only a few hundred or a couple of thousand students. For instance:
• Sherwin Allen's family, including two brothers, his wife and their two children, earned nearly $700,000 last year working for Children First Academy campuses in Dallas and Houston, according to Texas Education Agency records. The campuses enrolled a total of 750 students.
At the top, Allen's reported salary was $193,875 as superintendent of the Houston campus. His brother earned $159,955 as head of the Dallas campus. The brothers also serve on the charter holder's board, along with Allen's daughter…
• The Purcell family has brought in about a half million dollars a year running Faith Family Academy, with campuses in Oak Cliff and Waxahachie. The two campuses enrolled just over 1,500 students last year.
Superintendents of traditional districts that size earn about $115,000. Superintendent Ted Purcell made $200,000 last school year, TEA records show. His daughter earned $115,000 as assistant superintendent and his son-in-law $162,720 as technology director.
Purcell's wife, Charlotte Purcell, made $82,500 as a program director and, according to her husband, retired in March. Charlotte Purcell's sister and brother-in-law serve on Faith Family's board…
Another concern of critics: charter schools awarding contracts to companies with ties to board members or operators…
While such arrangements are legal, TEA continues to field complaints about highly paid charter operators, nepotism and other financial concerns…
TEA oversees charter schools and all traditional public schools with a limited staff, budget and authority. In 2003, state budget cuts forced TEA to downsize its staff and curtailed campus visits.
The agency looks into complaints of fraud and financial mismanagment and has taken action against some troubled charter schools, including shutting some down. But those cases can drag on for years if charter schools fight back in court…
"We know that when they're terrible, parents don't necessarily vote with their feet and leave," said Jeffrey Henig, a political science and education professor at Teachers College at Columbia University. "A lot of the charter school proponents now will admit that you can't rely on the market forces. You need to have a capable authorizing body and regulatory body."…
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Texas charter schools (nepotism)
FUNDS MISUSE, NEPOTISM FEARED AT TEXAS CHARTER SCHOOLS; December 19, 2010; Dallas Morning News (TX)