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Charter schools continue to be a risky investment. The Albany (NY) Times Union reports that a Wall Street credit rating agency downgraded the bonds of certain Brighter Choice schools, once considered the “holy grail” of the charter school movement.
“Wall Street sensed trouble at the Brighter Choice middle schools for boys and girls even before the state notified them last month they may be forced to close their doors after this year.
One of the largest credit rating agencies, Fitch Ratings, in December downgraded the five-year-old schools’ bond ratings, citing improved but still lagging academic performance and the fact that the schools themselves had not sought full five-year renewals of their state charters.
In its Dec. 18 briefing for investors, Fitch noted the schools’ “limited renewal prospects” based in part on “testing results below (state) expectations…..”
The threat of closure looms large not just for the roughly 450 fifth- through eighth-grade students and staff but also for the Brighter Choice Foundation, which helped found the schools and could be on the hook for the $15.1 million in bonds owed on the brand-new building.
According to Fitch, the foundation — the 15-year-old nonprofit that once supported 11 city charter schools — guaranteed the schools’ bond debt. Yet the rating agency expressed doubt that the foundation has the money to make those payments over the long term.
As Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to expand charter schools across the state, he might pay attention to what is happening in Albany, his backyard.