If your private Voucher school fails in Milwaukie, don’t worries just open another in Florida.

One of the consequences of unfettered choice besides
shortchanging children from getting a good education is mercenaries taking
millions in public money.   Your charter school fails in Miami, don’t
worry open another in Tampa. Your voucher school in Milwaukie, taking millions,
fails don’t worry Florida will accept you with open arms.
From the Milwaukie Journal, by Erin Richards
A husband and wife running a private
Milwaukee voucher school that abruptly closed last month — after accepting a
total of more than $2.3 million in taxpayer money — now live in a gated
community in Florida by the beach, records show.
Records show Taron and Rodney Monroe
started a new private Christian school this year in Daytona Beach. While the
school in Milwaukee was running on fumes, they were telling Florida friends
they had experience getting government grants for religious schools.
Now the Monroes, who lost their
five-bedroom house in West Bend to foreclosure, have disappeared.
“I haven’t seen them since
before Thanksgiving,” said Bill Vigue, a pastor with a Christian radio
show who worshipped with the Monroes in Florida.
The K-8 voucher school in Milwaukee,
LifeSkills Academy, 3434 N. 38th St., served only about 400 low-income students
since joining the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in 2008-’09. Its closing
around Dec. 13
forced 66 students to find other schools with little notice.
The school’s rise and fall
illustrate how unstable operations are still a feature of Milwaukee’s landmark
voucher program as it heads into its 24th year.
While running LifeSkills Academy in
Milwaukee, records show, the Monroes were living in a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath
house in West Bend.
The home’s ownership was shifted in
2011 from Lifestyle Ministries — the religious group affiliated with the Monroes
— to Taron Monroe’s name, according to real estate records.
A foreclosure action was filed
against the property in early 2013, and the house was sold in a sheriff’s sale
in November, records show.
The house is now listed on the
market for about $284,000.
For the past year, the Monroes have
been living in a house with a private pool in Palm Coast, Fla., that sold in
2009 for $409,000, according to records.
A representative with Southern
States Management Group, which manages the Palm Coast homeowners’ association,
confirmed Wednesday that the Monroes had been living in the gated community
since about February.
Calls to all of the phone numbers
listed for Taron Monroe and the family’s enterprises in Milwaukee yielded
disconnected numbers. Calls to the second LifeSkills Academy school in Florida
were not returned.
In one online document, Vigue was
listed as a board member of the school. But when contacted Wednesday by the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he said he had never agreed to be on any board of
the school.
Still, he defended the Monroes as
honest people committed to teaching.
“They’re not charlatans or con
people who were trying to get government money to live high on the hog,”
Vigue said. “They were doing their best to provide a good education for
children.”
Vigue said he met the Monroes when
they and their three children came to Florida about a year ago to take care of
one of their moms, he said.
“I knew he had a school in
Wisconsin and that he wanted to start a school here,” Vigue said.
“They said they had experience getting government grants for Christian
schools.”
He said the Monroes seemed to take
turns traveling to Wisconsin to check on the Milwaukee school. Wisconsin
records show the administration of the school switched from Taron Monroe to
Dominic Robinson in October.
Vigue said Rodney Monroe was “a
real good preacher,” but that he and his wife were struggling with the new Florida school, which had only eight or nine children in 2013-’14, including some
or all of the Monroes’ own children.
LifeSkills Academy in Milwaukee also
had troubles.
Save for one child who met the state
benchmark one year in reading, no students could read or do math proficiently
in 2011 or 2012, according to the most recent state test score results.
Before closing, the school collected
more than $200,000 in taxpayer money this academic year. The school will not
get its final two voucher payments from the state, according to the state.
In Milwaukee’s voucher program,
qualifying private schools receive an annual taxpayer-financed subsidy of up to
$6,442 per child. Nearly 26,000 children in Milwaukee participate in the
program.
Wisconsin Department of Public
Instruction records show LifeSkills was nearly booted from the voucher program
in 2010-’11 because the Monroes were listed as school administrators but didn’t
have bachelor’s degrees — a program requirement that went into effect in 2010.
Once Taron Monroe hustled to get
hers and the state was convinced that Rodney Monroe was no longer in a teaching
or administrative position, the taxpayer money continued flowing, according to
the DPI.
John Johnson, DPI spokesman, said
Wednesday that the department’s authority over voucher schools, which are all
private and predominantly religious, is limited.
There’s nothing in state law that
allows the DPI to take action against a private school because of low academic
performance or because of a school leader’s personal finances, Johnson said.
Voucher school advocates say that
freedom from the mandates placed on public schools means the private schools
can potentially offer low- and middle-income children a better education.
But Jim Bender, head of the voucher
advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin, said people like the Monroes shouldn’t
be running schools.
He reiterated that his group is in
favor of a forthcoming bill that should propose stronger limits on who can open
a voucher school, and that Milwaukee needs more high-quality voucher schools
and fewer programs like LifeSkills.

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