According to Biden, Rodberg isn't the kind of guy who charms politicians; he's a guy who spits chewing tobacco into a cup. "But he does it eloquently."

After the coffee shop meeting, Rodberg invited Biden to visit a Mavericks school, and Biden says he was hooked. He began flying around the state in a private jet, lobbying school officials and local politicians to support the charters.

He calls himself president and director of development for Mavericks, but his name did not appear on any corporate documents filed with the Florida Secretary of State until New Times began questioning him about it. On December 5, he was listed as president of the company. Frank Attkisson, a former state representative who once ran a state commission designed to approve charter schools that were rejected by local school boards, is vice president. Biden and Attkisson are also both registered lobbyist for Mavericks in Tallahassee.

Developer Mark Rodberg wanted Dwyane Wade's name on his restaurants and schools. To read more on the topic of Mavericks and South Florida education, click  here.
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Developer Mark Rodberg wanted Dwyane Wade's name on his restaurants and schools. To read more on the topic of Mavericks and South Florida education, click here.
Former CEO Mark Thimmig is in a legal battle with Mavericks' other founders.
PR NEWSWIRE/Newscom
Former CEO Mark Thimmig is in a legal battle with Mavericks' other founders.

"I'm a salesman," Biden says. "I'm nothing but a P.T. Barnum for these kids."


With the vice president's brother stumping for Mavericks, the charter school company this year began winning over wary district officials throughout Florida. It joined a booming business. This year, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reported there were 462 publicly funded, privately run charters in Florida. And 348 more have applied to open next year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

Many of these schools are designed to earn money. Only Michigan has more charter schools run by for-profit companies than Florida, according to a 2010 study published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado. Last year, there were 145 schools in Florida run by companies such as Mavericks.

Plenty of government grants help charters grow. Reports submitted to the state by Mavericks show their schools each receive about $250,000 a year in federal grants. And schools that use online curricula are about to get a windfall. This spring, the Florida Legislature, with the enthusiastic support of Gov. Rick Scott, passed a "Digital Learning Now" bill that establishes virtual charter schools and encourages charters to combine traditional classroom instruction with virtual courses, as Mavericks already does. There's even a state grant available for charters to start an "online learning community."

But opening a charter school is far easier than sustaining one. In Florida, at least 192 charters have merged or shut down since 1996. Kids at one charter school in Miami were taught in a tool shed; another school turned into a nightclub after hours. A recent Miami Herald investigation found many schools have high rents and management fees designed to pad the pockets of their owners.

Often these schools struggle academically or financially, yet their management companies are allowed to keep opening new campuses. Gary Miron, a charter school expert and education professor at Western Michigan University, says these problems are worst in states like Florida, with a large number of charters run by for-profit companies. "The problem, as I see it, is that policy makers and legislators have not put in place the right incentives, funding mechanisms and safeguards to ensure that these companies serve the public good," Miron says.

Mavericks' academic failures are glaringly apparent, despite the upbeat assurances of company managers. When asked about the schools' graduation rates, Hollander declined to provide a hard figure. She says the numbers fluctuate when students transfer back to their home high schools. "Our actual percentages are very, very nice," she says. "But it's also unique to each school. We're doing a good job."

Biden says, "We just graduated almost 200 people in one location."

But figures from the Florida Department of Education paint a vastly different picture, showing that Mavericks schools have a worse graduation rate than traditional public schools in Florida. They show Mavericks' best school, in Kissimmee, graduated just 43 percent of the eligible kids in June. Other Mavericks schools performed far worse. Mavericks High in North Miami Beach had a 12.7 percent graduation rate last school year. In Fort Lauderdale, the rate was 13.1 percent, Largo's was 7.2 percent, and in Homestead it was 4.5 percent.

On Florida's state report cards, Mavericks schools in Miami-Dade, Pinellas, and Osceola counties have all scored "incomplete" because not enough students have taken the FCAT. Hollander says she expects the FCAT grade to change as more students enroll.

Deborah Higgins, a spokesperson for the state Department of Education, said there is no policy that requires a school to be disciplined or shut down if it continues to earn grades of "incomplete." That means Mavericks schools can keep operating with little oversight of its academic progress.

Part of Mavericks' problem may be the teaching model: Parking troubled kids in front of a computer and hoping they'll learn — instead of watching the latest Kardashian stunt on YouTube. Research shows that for virtual learning to work, "Students need to be very self disciplined and have supportive environments," Miron says. "If they're not self-guided and self-motivated, then it's gonna be a hard match."

Meanwhile, recent lawsuits filed against Mavericks raise questions about whether any of the schools' statistics can be trusted. In February and June of this year, two former employees filed whistle-blower lawsuits against Mavericks regarding its Homestead high school. Teacher Maria Del Cristo and career coordinator Kelly Shaw allege the school inflates attendance records to receive more money from the school district, exceeds class size limits, and "regularly fails to accurately post grades and report student enrollment" in the district's computer system, in violation of state law.

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22 comments
A former mavericks parent
A former mavericks parent

Mavericks as a whole is a joke Kids cheating their way to a graduation Administration doing nothing but lining their pockets with illegal money for students they claim on their system who have never attended . Grades are fake and mean nothing .. Computers instead of textbooks and teachers and they wonder why they have 7% passing on the reading fcat after te state lowered its standard and how can you even lump the ones that passed it while in jail. Somebody needs to shut them down... Parents don't send your kids there... Job seekers keep moving trust me you don't want to work for such a lousy company trying to pass itself off as a school

Itzli
Itzli

Yet the school boards in Florida continue to approve new charter schools...hmmmm...something fishy is going on....how come the Department of Education allows this to happen? There is a lot of money going under the table for school board members and other politicians who are involved with the approval of charter schools....I smell CORRUPTION!!! It's the only explanation...there should be more "Watergate" uncoverings...

Comment
Comment

How can u teach kids using a program on a computer and kids take the test and write the wrong answer in a paper then take test again and they put different answer until they go it right teachers begs students to come to classroom cos kids don't hv too as long as they work on the computer how can a software teach kids teacher at maverick they do secretary work answer phone and teach about 8 kids a day that's all they do

Guest
Guest

InConclusion2012, is probably someone at mavericks. Simply put...why would anyone ever take their children to a non-credited school? ...Do a background check before posting. The Rodbergs are in it for the money. They have so much Litigation's and people suing them in the state of Florida, no one would ever do business with them...these people are hoodlums.  Forget about what they are trying to do...and FYI.. the SAT scores for  Miami Dade, are up this year, substantially. Look it up....

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jgrim
jgrim

Hey, InConclusion- What's your name and who do you work for? Are you a real live 1%er or a PR persona defending private profit off of the backs of poor kids? Ever worked in a classroom with at-risk kids? I have for 23 years.

It's NOT the school system that has failed these kids- it's your sociopathic 1%ers' economic system that has left them and their families in deep debt and poverty with low wage jobs and no support services.

InConclusion2012
InConclusion2012

Winston Churchill said: To build may have to be a slowand laborious task of Years. to destroy can be the thoughtless act of a singleday...

 

Lisa Rab and her cohorts have been hammering away at theMavericks organization for over a month now, it has brought me to threeconclusions.

 

(1). Thank God the people at Mavericks are providing anopportunity for 4000 at risk teenagers to Graduate High School. I personallydon't know of any other organizations offering tuition free education to thissegment of students.

 

(2). If the Public Education System was doing the jobthat they receive over $12,000 per student of tax payer money as opposed to$6,000 the charter schools receive. Mavericks would not have any studentsenrolling.

 

(3) I have not read any suggestions or alternativesolutions by Lisa Rab for parents of students that are not succeeding in thepublic high schools they are assigned to base on the boundries of where theylive. 

 

 

Joe
Joe

In the article, it says "Mavericks officials say Fort Lauderdale's debt was temporary, because the school's original enrollment was low. Hollander wrote a check to cover the budget hole, and the school is "now on its feet and very healthy,"  Funny thing about that.  The Fort Lauderdale school achieved full enrollment faster than any previous Maverick's High School.  While Mavericks promised they would advertise on the radio to encourage enrollment, the radio spots never happened.  And the school was trying to enrollment for two months before Mavericks bothered to add the school to their website.  The problems at Fort Lauderdale are not the fault of early poor enrollment.  They are entirely the fault of the money grabbing, don't give a lick about education, management in the Corporate Offices.  Gov'n Scott -- are you reading this article.  It is time to put strong controls on Charter Schools so that they quit taking tax payer money and giving nothing back to the public.  And Mavericks ... shut them down!

dip lomas94
dip lomas94

Great info man you have done a great job. You are really inspiring me. Keep up the good work.

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FQS9000
FQS9000

At the worst, a for profit school cares about keeping students and their parents happy.  This is in stark contrast to the teaching union weasels who only care about time off, benefits, pensions and making sure nobody ever, ever gets fired.  Just read their contracts.

Jerry1932
Jerry1932

The article correctly points out why Florida is a ripe mark for these types of frauds.  You MUST send your kid to private school.  Most are very good, but this is total BS! Even the private schools here that charge almost $20,000 provide very little extras b/c they do not have to.  There is no competition.  I blame the Old F-er's who move here and the corrupt public officials.

SchoolDistrictFailsChildren
SchoolDistrictFailsChildren

Lisa, I would like to hear more about how the Palm Beach School District only graduates 22% of Black Males or Miami's 27%.  How long has this been going on? Why cant they reach these kids?  What happens to these kids?

SchoolDistrictFailsChildren
SchoolDistrictFailsChildren

If public education did its job, there would be no need for schools like mavericks.  Students need alternatives because the system is BROKEN.

Geraldo
Geraldo

Good reporting but there's an awful lot of self-promotion from New Times in an article about education and developers skating by on self-promotion alone.

Itzli
Itzli

You obviously work for Mavericks and are getting part of the big $$$ that company is stealing from the tax payers. As a teacher who has worked in charter schools and schools that utilize the computer system called Plato, I can tell you that students do not learn anything, and that those schools are just a money-making business,  doing a disservice to the students. These schools are part of the master plan of keeping people uneducated to create an ignorant yet controllable nation. 

ForTheChildrenOfAmerica
ForTheChildrenOfAmerica

If you close Mavericks High, who will educate these children?  The school system has already failed them...

Davetg
Davetg

So how many teachers do you actually know?? I would say none. I would also say that you've never had a job w/ a contract, or been a union member as well. That's a little sad actually. Working conditions are a concern, but in front of that is the concern we have for our students . . . Something that you know absolutely nothing about . . .

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Maybe it is more like the students fail the districts. Those that do not want to be taught and devalue the worth of an education will fail. They drag the system down to their level and defeat the educational process.

Lisa Rab
Lisa Rab

Good questions! I don't have any fast answers, but I will look into it.

ForTheChildrenOfAmerica
ForTheChildrenOfAmerica

Its not the fault of teachers...  The system is BROKEN...  This competition from charter schools will cause everyone to rethink the plan.  Schools havent improved upon their models in a hundred years...  The current system is turning certain minorities into a permanent underclass...

FQS9000
FQS9000

At last count, my mother was a teacher, my wife is a teacher and I know three other local union twerps.  I've been in a union and they are merely extortion organizations.  No teacher in the last 50 years has had unsafe working conditions.  They merely want more money for less work and less responsibility.  Read any teacher's union contract.

The teacher's unions are run by scum.  Any teacher who doesn't like their job is entitled to find another job, but they should not have high pay or tenure for NOT teaching our children.

recentgraduate
recentgraduate

last time I checked, the starting salary for a teacher in Florida is $29K. all I remember is the caliber of the students in the teacher's college was the worst in my university. high pay for having a 4-year degree? sure doesn't look like it to me and it doesn't look like a desirable profession at that. welcome to the new normal, America. 

 
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