LANSING – State Representative Charles Brunner (D-Bay City) was saddened and frustrated to learn that the Michigan Department of Education had approved the Bay City Academy’s five year deficit elimination plan. The Bay City Academy, founded by Steve Ingersoll who is currently awaiting sentencing for felony convictions of tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the United States, has a 1.3 million dollar deficit.
“The Bay City Academy has objectively failed both academically and financially in recent years,” said Rep. Brunner “Nothing in the deficit elimination plan offered by the Bay City Academy has given me faith that the academy is serious about educating the students attending their sorry excuse for a school.”
The deficit elimination plan offered by the Bay City Academy is predicated on drastic growth in the number of students attending the school, the assumption that no repairs will be necessary to their building in the next five years, and increases in state funding in future fiscal years which have not been discussed yet by the Legislature.
“That the Michigan Department of Education does not have the tools to hold the Bay City Academy accountable for its failures is further evidence that bills my colleagues and I have introduced to bring transparency and accountability to charter schools are increasingly necessary,” said Rep. Brunner “Despite my best efforts, the Department of Treasury, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and the charter authorizer Lake Superior State University have refused to take responsibility to investigate the financial misdeeds and misuse of taxpayer dollars at the academy. The only group who has shown any interest in ensuring our children get access to a great education is the Michigan Department of Education, which is hamstrung by the outrageously lax charter school laws in this state.”
While the Department of Education is requiring the Bay City Academy to file a signed letter indicating it has no further associations with the previous management company, Smart Schools Inc., this does not account for the fact that the academy’s school board is headed by a close friend of Steven Ingersoll, Craig Johnston, who has been on the board throughout the academic and financial failures of the academy since its founding. In addition, the current management company is run by Brian Lynch, the former superintendent of the academy who now oversees the entire operation of the academy. Mr. Lynch also has family ties to a business associate and friend of Mr. Ingersoll.
“If the Bay City Academy were truly concerned about students and cared about responsibly handling the taxpayer dollars they receive, they would absolutely divest themselves of anyone and everyone personally connected to Steve Ingersoll and remove from their board people who have been involved in the previous failures of the school,” said Rep. Brunner “It is unconscionable that the individuals who have so assiduously shirked responsibility for their past performance have continued to be involved in the operation of the academy and even in some cases promoted. I will not stop advocating for the children of Bay County and will not rest until every student has access to a financially stable and academically enriching school environment. I am calling on my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass sensible reforms to our charter school laws to hold schools like the Bay City Academy accountable, Lake Superior State to take responsibility for the academic performance of the school it permits to operate under its auspices, and the Department of Treasury and the Attorney General to do their jobs and ensure that Michigan taxpayers are not having their hard-earned dollars be abused and misused by a corrupt school board.”