“Setting JD Mesnard Straight on Charter School Holders’ Financial Risk”
PHOENIX, AZ- Steve Weichert, Democratic Candidate for State Senate in Legislative District 17 has called out current Speaker of the House and career politician, JD Mesnard, for his cynical defense of Arizona charter school holders and others who profit at the expense of the state’s 1.1 million public school students.
Last week, Mesnard was interviewed on television about the news that fellow Republican, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, was approved by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools to transfer his for-profit charter school chain to a newly formed non-profit.
Farnsworth’s school, Benjamin Franklin Charter, reported a $194,241 profit in 2017 – and receives approximately $20 million a year in taxpayer funds.
“Mesnard’s justification about why this is okay – for someone to personally profit tens of millions of dollars after having taken tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money – astounds me,” said Steve Weichert, LD 17 Democratic Senate Candidate. “And it should disgust any Arizonan who stands up for public education or pays taxes in our state,” Weichert added.
Farnsworth will rake in between $12 million and $30 million from the deal, which will enable him to sell campuses paid for with state tax dollars to a non-profit organization. The broad range of Farnsworth’s potential payday is attributable to conflicting financial audits that his company provided to the Charter Board – discrepancies he has declined to explain.
Farnsworth will still retain nearly $3.8 million of "shareholder equity" in the for-profit company, and he submitted an application to manage the school’s campuses to the company’s three-person board – all of whom are close personal friends. When the sale of the campuses closes, Arizona taxpayers will essentially have paid for the same schools twice. For years, Farnsworth’s charter school has used education funding to make lease payments to LBE Investments, of which he is the sole owner.
“I applaud any hard-working Arizonan who pours his or her blood, sweat, tears – and money - into building a successful business,” Weichert said. “But this isn’t good old American capitalism at all. Eddie Farnsworth didn’t ‘put himself on the line’. He is nothing more than a typical politician who has soaked Arizona’s taxpayers with the help of his friends – led by JD Mesnard.”
“They’ve literally snatched money away from our public schools – which flounder near the bottom of every state ranking – to line their own pockets,” Weichert continued. “Mesnard should be ashamed of himself for letting this happen. But it’s what we’ve come to expect from him – and that’s why LD 17 needs new leadership at the State Capitol.”