Public School, Inc.: When public education turns into big business

“BASIS was essentially built on a mother’s love for her daughter,” said Bezanson, the BASIS.ed CEO.

The Blocks, who remain managers at BASIS.ed, declined to be interviewed.

The school opened in fall 1998, renting space at a synagogue in midtown Tucson. It was called Building Academic Success in School, or BASIS.

Today, the BASIS network runs 24 charter schools in Arizona, Texas and Washington, D.C., and seven private schools in California, New York, Virginia, and Shenzhen and Guangzhou, China. It has plans to open more schools in the U.S. and overseas in the near future.

As BASIS grew, so did its corporate structure. In 2009, Olga and Michael Block established a private limited liability company, BASIS.ed, to handle school operations. To manage the assets and equities of various private management arms that run the charter, private and international schools, the founders also established BASIS Educational Ventures.

Such complex corporate structures, also common to other large charter networks, limit risk and maximize profit, said Gary Miron, an expert in charter school finance at Western Michigan University and fellow for the National Education Policy Center.

“It’s just amazing that they are public schools,” he said, “but they are really private in so many ways.”

Reading, writing and reaping profits

Before BASIS’ multi-tiered corporate structure emerged, IRS disclosure forms showed that in 2008, Olga Block earned $197,507 as the chief executive officer of BASIS, which then had two schools and just over 1,100 students. Michael Block earned $156,362 in various roles.

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