By: Sharon Aron Baron
Imagine your neighbor owns a Ford dealership, however not only will he not drive a Ford, none his family will either, preferring to drive BMW’s. Now imagine this: the state is giving his dealership money because they believe in his business.
Charter Schools USA operates 58 schools in several states, including Florida, for a combined 48,000 students, however, Charter Schools USA Founder Jonathan Hage along with his wife Sherry, Chief Academic Officer, send all four of their children to Pine Crest Schools – a private school. Tuition for four children at Pine Crest Schools costs over $100,000 a year. In addition to the annual tuition, the Hage’s are big donors to the school and last year donated over $10,000 to their annual fund.
Charter schools are public schools that receive state tax dollars, but function with their own boards of directors and enjoy substantial independence from state and local regulations.
Broward County has “school choice” which means parents can choose to send their children to any public or charter schools they want as long as it has space and so long as the parents can provide the transportation. And the Hage’s certainly have the right. But what does that say about their own schools if they’re not good enough for their own children?
If driving is an issue from their $1.8 million home in Coral Ridge Country Club, rest assured. There are parents all over Broward County driving their children to schools, including theirs, that are even further.
Charters Schools USA runs seven schools in Broward County including: Coral Springs Charter School, Hollywood Academy of Arts & Science, North Broward Academy of Excellence and Renaissance Charter Schools in Coral Springs, Cooper City, Plantation and Tamarac.
“It’s not a comforting feeing. It certainly make you wonder why,” said Renaissance Charter School parent Kevin Muscolino who said he liked the school for his daughter who is attending her first year there. “This would be the same as if the guys working at my body shop took their cars to the dealership to be fixed.”
Charters Schools USA receive $5,705 per student from the state of Florida. This doesn’t even include additional millions in facilities funding as well as advanced placement (AP) fees.
Let’s just do the math: With 8,600 students attending their seven schools in Broward County, this brings in over $49 million dollars annually for Charters Schools USA.
Andrew Ladanowski, parent of a Coral Springs Charter School student, sits on their Advisory Board and said if he had the $25,000, he would probably send his child to Pine Crest as well. “Mr. Hage might not want his kids to be perceived as having special treatment at one of his schools and put a teacher in an awkward position of teaching the CEO’s kid.”
“I heard about this from someone at our school and thought this was kind of weird,” said Eliana Lapointe, who has an 8th grade student at North Broward Academy.
We wrote to Jonathan and Sherry Hage and asked for their comment and at this time, have not heard back.
Said Lapointe, “We like the school. I just don’t know why they don’t use the Charter Schools for their own kids.”