In October 2014, the Columbus Dispatch reported that five Imagine Schools in Franklin County received a combined $20.2 million in the 2012-13 school year. And that a quarter of that money – $5.1 million – was spent on rent, all under long-term leases with SchoolHouse Finance, a subsidiary of Imagine.
A sixth school, Imagine Integrity Academy, spent an astounding 81 percent of it’s $440,009 in state aid on rent.
ProgressOhio looked into what all 17 Ohio Imagine charter schools were sending to SchoolHouse Finance and immediately called on Governor John Kasich to crack down on these outrageous charter school leases. According to state audit records, ProgressOhio found that Imagine’s subsidiary, Schoolhouse Finance, collected at least $14.4 million in public dollars in 2014 for the company’s 17 Ohio charter schools. More than half of that, $8.9 million, covered rent while $5.5 million was paid for “indirect costs” to Imagine to provide management services.
Group Urges Kasich to hold charter schools more accountable
The Columbus Dispatch
Charter school rent stirs debate
The Toledo Blade
Charter school leases draw criticism from liberal group
Northeast Ohio Media Group
Progressive Coalition Targets Charter School Leases
Ohio Public Radio
Since then, we’ve learned that this is not unique to Ohio, but standard operating procedure for Imagine Schools and their subsidiary SchoolHouse Finance.
In January 2015 a federal judge in Missouri ordered Imagine Schools to pay nearly $1 million back to Missouri charter school’s board for forcing unreasonably high lease agreement on the school it operated.
And in February 2015 it was reported that an almost identical judgement was issued against Imagine Schools in Kansas City.