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Bush Pioneer JC Huizenga: 2nd-largest charter school management co. in the US

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-19-09 07:49 AM
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Bush Pioneer JC Huizenga: 2nd-largest charter school management co. in the US
He's the son of Wayne Huizenga (Waste Management, Blockbuster Video, Miami Dolphins)

1995: J.C. Huizenga opens Excel Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

1998: The company changes its name to National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA).

1999: The first two out-of-state schools open in North Carolina, giving the company a total of 22 schools.

2001: The company records its first profitable year.

In the summer of 2002... Annual revenues topped $100 million..

In the fall of 2003...NHA officials announced that expansion would continue until there were a total of more than 200 schools in operation.

In less than a decade, National Heritage Academies, Inc. had grown into one of the top private school management companies in the United States....NHA had staked out a solid claim in the still-evolving field of for-profit K-8 education.

Company History:

National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA) operates a chain of nearly 40 charter schools--state-regulated, for-profit institutions that serve as a tuition-free alternative to public schools. The company erects the buildings and provides personnel and management services, receiving what local school districts spend per student as compensation. NHA students get a back-to-basics education featuring phonics, math skills, and moral teaching, and follow strict disciplinary and dress codes.

To reduce overhead, NHA centralizes many operations, pays its non-union teachers lower salaries, and eschews the use of buses or cafeterias. The Michigan-based company is owned by J.C. Huizenga, a cousin of Blockbuster/Waste Management billionaire Wayne Huizenga.


National Heritage Academies was founded in 1995 by John Charles Huizenga, a wealthy Grand Rapids, Michigan, businessman. Huizenga, whose father had founded the companies that would later become Waste Management, Inc., had grown up attending Christian schools and later earned a master's degree in finance. In his early thirties, he decided to go into business and bought his first company, printing plate manufacturer American Litho. He later became involved with a second firm called JR Automation Technologies, a high-tech machine manufacturer.

When the state of Michigan instituted a law in 1994 allowing the creation of for-profit "charter" schools, which would receive taxpayer funding equivalent to what public schools spent, it created an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Huizenga, who had married a Christian school teacher and had donated to religious schools over the years, was approached by David Koetje, the superintendent of an 11-school Christian system in Grand Rapids. Koetje was now seeking funds for new charter facilities.

Michigan's charter law required that the curriculum adhere to state standards and that the schools, which would be certified by local school districts or state universities, not promote a particular religion. Koetje had second thoughts about the project because of this rule, but Huizenga decided to go forward and found a school of his own. Rather than being explicitly Christian, it would instead have a "moral focus."

Excel Charter Academy Opens in Fall of 1995

Huizenga's new company, Educational Development Corporation (EDC), opened its first school in the fall of 1995. Named Excel Charter Academy, it was located on the southeast side of Grand Rapids
... Each day began with a 20-minute assembly in which students recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang patriotic songs, and heard a lesson about morals or character. Though religion was kept out of the classroom, Excel teachers gave Bible-based "creationism" equal consideration to Darwin's theory of evolution. The instruction day was seven hours, longer than that of the public schools.

...Huizenga spent his own money to build the company's schools, which were then leased back to each academy's board. The boards in turn gave all but 2 percent of their public funding back to EDC for rent and management services.

Company officials openly compared their approach to Wal-Mart, and EDC employed such methods as using the same floor plan for all of its schools. Everything down to the playground equipment and number of books in the library was standardized as well. Teachers received an average of 91 percent of the salary of their public-school counterparts, which worked out to 95 percent given their lack of union dues.

EDC's schools, and those of other charter companies, quickly began having an impact on the education system in Michigan. Because they were free to attend and were similar in many ways to tuition-charging Christian schools, a number of parents switched their children from such institutions to EDC, causing financial problems and layoffs at some of the former. The public schools in cities like Holland were also affected, with enrollments dropping and staff laid off as public funds were diverted to charters. Critics of EDC charged that it largely enrolled "cheap" students who came from middle-class families and required less special services, leaving the more expensive children to the public system.

Seeking New Investors in the Late 1990s

By the fall of 1998, Huizenga's investment in the firm, which was now going under the name National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA), stood at $40 million, with $50 million more borrowed from family and friends. Each new startup cost upwards of $3 million, and Huizenga's plans for further growth were hampered by a limited amount of available capital. Consequently, the company began seeking an outside investor to purchase its school buildings and lease them back to the schools' boards. This would give Huizenga more capital and also save each academy money, as the rental rates would likely be less than what NHA charged. In early 1999, a $100 million deal was nearly reached with a California investment firm, but it fell through at the last minute.

The year 1999 also saw the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sue NHA for allegedly promoting religion in its academies...

At the beginning of 2000, NHA secured $50 million in financing from a consortium of lenders and $35 million in new equity funding from an investor. The firm was now the second-largest charter management company in the United States after the New York-based Edison Project, which had 51 schools. In the fall of 2000, six new academies were opened in North Carolina, Michigan, and Rochester, New York. NHA's revenues totaled $49.1 million for the year, and its staff topped 1,000.

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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-19-09 08:29 PM
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