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Charter Schools Sold Like an Investment to Wealthy Foreigners Looking for a Green Card

For the wealthy, and alternative to the federal immigration system.
 
 
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Who knew it was possible to come to the United States without dealing with the inefficient immigration system? Apparently, a bunch of wealthy Chinese investors.

According to a Miami Today report last week, these Chinese financiers are taking advantage of the U.S. EB-5, an Immigrant Investor Program that sets aside certain visas for investors who stimulate economic growth within the United States. The investors are required to invest at least $1 million and create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. residents. The EB-5 process has therefore been dubbed the “green card via red carpet.”

So what are these Chinese financiers investing millions of dollars in as a way to win their green cards? Evidently, charter schools. In fact, they have invested $30 million in charter schools in Florida alone. And according to the report, they are planning to invest three times that amount in the next year.

This comes at a time when more and more investors are viewing charter schools as secure investments. Just a few months ago on CNBC, David Brain, President and CEO Entertainment Properties Trust, a real estate investment firm, praised charter schools as reliable investments.

Speaking about these educational institutions in business terms, Brain said:

It’s a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It’s a very high-demand product. There’s 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools ... the industry’s growing about 12-14% a year. … It’s a public payer, the state is the payer …  and if you do business with states with solid treasuries, then it’s a very solid business.

Meanwhile, Florida’s State Board of Education announced a new plan this week, which aims to double charter school enrollment in the state, from 9 percent enrollment to 17 percent enrollment within the next six years.

Yet, research still shows that charter schools don’t deliver superior learning results in most cases. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes’ 2009 data shows that almost half of the nation’s charters had learning results no different from local public schools. Seventeen percent of charters provided superior results, while 37 percent provided worse results. Florida’s charters actually stood out as yielding significantly worse results than public schools. But, when there’s room to profit in education, through wealth or even a visa, whether or not charter schools are effective doesn’t seem to matter. 

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.