Charter Schools are a scourge on this country, and no state suffers from this pestilence more than Michigan. Chris Savage of Eclectablog has done an excellent job exposing the horror known as the Education Achievement Authority, but they're not the only ones ripping off taxpayers to make themselves rich.
Steve Ingersoll is also part of the epic Michigan charter school tragedy. He should be in the national news, but he barely gets even a mention in Michigan newspapers.
One month ago Dr. Steve Ingersoll and his wife Deborah were both charged with several counts of fraud, including defrauding Chemical Bank, the United States and tax evasion by a federal grand jury. The optometrist and wife team, along with his brother and another couple who owned a construction company engaged in a dizzy dance of money transfers and check writing to each other that eventually moved most of a business loan for renovating a church into a school in Bay City, Michigan, into Steve Ingersoll’s personal bank account. The reason for doing this appears to be avoiding paying taxes, and also covering up for money paid by him to him through advances taken from Grand Traverse Academy’s school funds, another charter school managed by Ingersoll.
Not only the Ingersolls enjoyed shuffling money from one bank account to another through money transfers and writing checks. The other people named in the indictment include Roy and Tammy Bradley, the contractors, and brother Gayle Ingersoll, who was hired as a sub-contractor for the Bay City School renovations. The Bradleys are charged with paying their employees with cash to avoid payroll taxes and face another charge from a year ago that asbestos was illegally removed from the church in Bay City when they were working on renovating it.
Steve Ingersoll owns Smart Schools Management Incorporated. Many charter school operators work through management companies, which allows them to run their own mini districts of charter schools and compete with public school districts for education tax dollars. In March of 2014, Ingersoll was removed as president of Bay City Academy after the schools showed low academic performance. In January, the Superintendent of Bay City Academy Ray Schrock was abruptly removed from his position. Parents troubled by the development pulled their children from the school and enrolled them elsewhere. Grand Traverse Academy no longer associates with Smart Schools Management Inc. and now works with a new charter school management company that oddly enough is owned by another Traverse City optometrist named Mark Noss, who just so happens to be Steve Ingersoll's partner. Despite the problems Ingersoll is facing with the federal court, Bay City Academy sees no reason to find a new management company for their schools.
Steve Ingersoll embodies the most glaring problem with charter schools in Michigan; too much taxpayer money being siphoned into management companies with very little oversight and for very poor returns. Bay City Academy did very poorly in achievement scores compared to other school districts in Bay City. Parents and politicians need to reconsider whether charter schools really offer an alternative for better education. What is mostly being revealed about the people who start and manage charter schools is it’s a quick way to make money at taxpayer expense. Public Schools have always been the better investment for educating Michigan’s children, and it’s time to put our money back into the institution dedicated to education rather than profits.