We now have a second education link:
Maple Street Charter School, the for-profit charter school hoping to open in Rochester next year, has paid tens of thousands of dollars to a lobbying firm at the center of a rapidly expanding federal investigation into improper influence in Albany, state records show.
Maple Street's parent company, National Heritage Academies, has been using the Albany-based lobbying firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna since at least 2007. A WOH subsidiary in Washington, D.C., was led until recently by Todd Howe, a former associate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who is at the center of the probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.The Buffalo News reported earlier this week that Bharara issued a subpoena to Cuomo's office requesting, among other things, all documents relating to Howe and WOH. That would likely include aspects of its lobbying on behalf of the Maple Street application....The most recent disclosure report shows NHA paid WOH $12,000 in the last six months of 2015 for lobbying related to charter schools. The expected lobbying targets included Cuomo's office, the state Assembly and Legislature and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.In the same six-month time period, NHA also paid $45,000 to Park Strategies, a powerful lobbying firm run by former U.S. Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y.NHA Chairman J.C. Huizenga has given more than $400,000 in campaign contributions in New York since 2005. Most of it went to Republicans, but he also has given $49,000 to a Cuomo fundraising entity.
For-profit charters are banned in New York State, in part because a previous NHA for-profit charter was such a problem, but NHA got this current proposal through a loophole - the SUNY charter board used one charter slot left over from 2007 to give the Maple Street Charter School the opportunity to open under the old, less onerous charter rules.
How did they get the loophole exception?
Could it be the lobbying through WOH or D'Amato's Park Strategies?
Could it be the $49K to Cuomo?
Could it be a mixture of all three?
You bet it could.
And then, just as a Buffalo Billion Project RFP was written so that only a Cuomo donor could win it and a SUNY dorm RFP was written so that only a Cuomo donor could win it, this RFP was written so that NHA was pretty much guaranteed to win it:
Because it predates the 2010 ban, that charter can go to a for-profit provider. The request for proposals was written in such a way that NHA was one of only two possible candidates; the request also was not publicized along with a concurrent, broader charter school proposal cycle.
Ah, such fun in New York - if you pay-to-play, you can achieve just about anything.
What an exciting message to teach the kids at the new NHA Maple Street Charter, with its emphasis on "character education."
But I'm guessing now that there's some sunlight on this deal, the Maple Street Charter School may not open as NHA hoped.