Mosaica ‘buys’ Muskegon Heights schools

The new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy will be run by Mosaica Education, Inc., a charter school management company established in 1987 and based in New York. Mosaica beat out the Leona Group, a Phoenix-based charter school management company. Mosaica currently operates six charter schools in Michigan.

Muskegon Heights Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon made the announcement last week and said he chose Mosaica because of its “high standards for academic performance and research-based methods for supporting students that need assistance.”

Yet, neither Mosaica nor Leona Group has an outstanding academic record. Only one charter school from among the two companies scored above the 50th percentile in rankings based on test scores.

Mosaica plans on using four of the district’s buildings to run its charter system—two elementary buildings and the middle school and high school. They are expecting an enrollment close to the 1,200 students attending traditional Muskegon Heights schools last year. Mosaica doesn’t have much experience running a high school since it operates only three high school charter schools in Arizona, India and Dubai.

The for-profit charter company is promising a curriculum using longer school days and a longer school year, along with higher expectations for students and parents. The company also boasts providing twice as many professional development days than traditional public schools. Mosaica also intends to provide sports and band as a way of “embracing the rich tradition” of Musekgon Heights.

Following the announcement, Mosaica immediately began interviewing staff interested in joining their team. Another round of interviews is scheduled for this week and applicants can also go online to apply. The new salary schedule and benefits have not yet been published.

Despite its less than stellar academic record, it didn’t hurt that Mosaica will be spending $5.5 million of its own money to start the new district-wide K-12 charter system. After that, the company will be getting the $7,397 per-pupil money from the state.

Mosaica has drafted a new budget optimistically based on an increase of almost 200 students. Despite continued decreases in per pupil funding in the state, the budget assumes funding will increase each of the next five years of Mosaica’s contract. The private company expects to make a $7,000 profit in its first year of operation.

Meanwhile, the current Muskegon Heights school district will no longer exist, but would still have to pay off its $12.4 debt using its local millage, a 3 percent fee from the charter school company, rent from its buildings and whatever other means the state Department of Education and Treasury approve. Legislation has been introduced to allow for the use of school operating millages and emergency loans under PA 4.

This controversial  move to eliminate the district’s debt signals a serious threat to traditional public education in Michigan—especially since Highland Park’s Emergency Manager has also decided to sell out all of the district’s schools, student and staff to a charter company.