Parents accuse Choice school of mismanaging public funds at expense of students after bus service cut off

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Parents are raising questions about how a local choice school, Daughters of the Father Christian Academy, is managing its money, after buses stopped picking students up for school in the middle of the academic year.

Mom talks with dwyer

Laura Martin discusses the difficulty in getting her children to school on time after bus service was halted at Daughters of the Father Christian Academy.

Laura Martin is a parent who has two children enrolled at the school. She says in early May, school buses suddenly stopped picking her kids up. Now, she's forced to drive them to and from school (a 30-minute round trip) even though it's interfering with her job.

"I'm stuck," Martin says. I really don't have another choice."

When she called Daughters of the Father Christian Academy, the school's founder, Bishop Doris Pinkney, had no explanation.

"She told me that it was a lot of issues going on, that she couldn't go into detail on them," Martin says.

Dairyland Bus Company sent this letter to parents explaining that service was stopped because the school stopped paying its bill.

"I just don't understand," Martin said.

doris 2 One of the reasons she doesn't understand is because Daughters of the Father Christian Academy has received millions of taxpayer dollars. As a school participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the school receives thousands of dollars for each student enrolled. As of September 2014, the school had 153 students enrolled in the Choice program. Each of those students came with $7,200 in state aid. In other words, the school was set to receive $1,103,130 during the 2014-2015 school year from the  Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, even though it's a private school.

In addition, Milwaukedoris 3e Public Schools gave Bishop Pinkney another $31,000 this year. That money, paid directly to the school, was supposed to be used to pay for student transportation.

Under state statute, public school districts, like MPS, are required to provide transportation services to eligible households whose students are attending private schools, like Daughters of the Father. But legally, private schools enrolled in the Choice program don't have to provide transportation.

But parents say they were promised bus service.

"To simply decide that we're not going to provide transportation suddenly knowing that that prohibits children from attending school is a pretty egregious sort of action," says Jon Bales, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

"I absolutely think there has to be very clear expectations, very clear accountability, very clear processes to make sure that funds are being managed well and that students are being provided for in their education setting," Bales says.

Shelly Libby lives across the street from Daughters of the Father Christian Academy, which has been operating since the 2007-2008 school year. She says the school has been a nightmare to work with since it opened, blocking streets and not being responsive to neighborhood concerns about safety and traffic.

"Traffic is horrendous," Libby said.

Libby says the school has wreaked havoc on the neighborhood, and since the buses have stopped, cars are everywhere.

"They were blocking all the fire hydrants," Libby said.

neighbors talk with dwyer 2

Neighbors of the school are concerned about increased traffic and safety of students. They accuse the school of not following zoning regulations for the area.

Neighbors and community advocates want the school closed down for not following the area's zoning rules.

"What we call them now are hustler academies," says Gail Hicks, a retired special education teacher.

Hicks and her friend Marva Herndon call themselves the "mad grandmas." Around town, they are known as Woman Committed to an Informed Community. Hicks and  Herndon say schools like Daughters of the Father Christian Academy are actually hurting African-American kids on Milwaukee's north side.

"The schools are chaotic," Hicks says. "The children aren't learning, because if you have a business, you are there to make money. It's not about education."

Legally, teachers at the school don't need state licenses.

At Daughters of the Father Christian Academy, the school's principal only has an expired substitute teaching license.

And even though the school claims to specialize in math and reading, and empower children for the future, less than two percent of the school's students are proficient in reading and less than one percent are proficient in math, according to the most recently available test scores from the state Department of Public Instruction.

In fact, the school's own application for accreditation is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, like "The neighborhood does not have alot of monies and the children needs help."

They want to "ministry to the hold man."

And they want to make sure "the children will be help and feel safe."

Ironically, even the word "sucessful" is spelled wrong.

"They're not really schools. They're holding stations for the children and people are making money off of this," Hicks says.

Bishop_Pinkney2

Bishop Doris Pinkney

The school's founder, Bishop Doris Pinkney, has filed for bankruptcy three times since 1995.  By her own admission last year, she told the court she owed creditors, including the IRS, more than $300,000. Some of those debts represent credit card bills, in the name of the school and her ministry, Power of God, that she failed to pay. In some instances, she's racked up more than $20,000 in credit card debt.

Notwithstanding  her personal financial woes, Wisconsin continues to give her millions to run her school.

Last year, court records show she made $11,000 a month, or about $132,000 a year. Since at least 2012, she's made six figures.

Pinkney says she's an educator, but she has never earned a teaching license in Wisconsin. In 2011, a group child care center she ran by the same name, Daughters of the Father, was shut down by the state for "substantial and repeat violations of licensing rules," according to the Wisconsin Department of Families and Children.

"Choice is a good thing. But choice in this particular instance is being used as a vehicle to make money and they kids are suffering," Hicks says.

Pinkey, who originally agreed to an interview, changed her mind after consulting with her lawyers.

dwyer confrots

Doris Pinkney drives away from Meghan Dwyer refusing to answer questions about school finances.

In a statement faxed to FOX6, Pinkney admits the school fell behind on its bills. Pinkney also says the school didn't enroll as many kids this year as it expected to, and that's why the school doesn't have enough money to pay its bills. She says all employees agreed to pay cuts to help the school stay afloat.

Pinkney told the bankruptcy court instead of making $132,000 like she did last year, she's now only making $96,000 a year.

"Parents that may have already enrolled their kids for the new year, this is their warning right now," Martin says. "Don't do it."

27 comments

    • no name

      Before you reply back with any nonsense, Kala, can you point out the error in my first post to you? Baby, go to another school, so you can learn.

    • Mel

      This person cannot even spell or speak proper English. Perfect example that they are NOT teaching properly. Girl, go to a real school cause what you are receiving there is a “edumakashun”.

    • Marie

      Yes please find a better school that will teach you proper English. If you feel this school should remain open give them a reason to keep it open. From what i read it needs to be closed down ASAP.

  • Chris Multerer

    I guess MPS or the State of Wisconsin will give money to anyone if you bull$#!# them enough. Then after hundreds of thousands of dollars later, after they figured they’ve been fleeced, then it stops. Dummies.

    • Mandy

      Chris, you do know that MPS, the State Superintendant and Democrats have been working as hard as possible to shut these operations down, right? Republicans are in charge, they write the laws now, and are changing WI to accept MORE unaccountable voucher schools – not less. It’s a travesty.

    • Tony Tagliavia, MPS

      State statute actually requires public school districts including Milwaukee Public Schools to provide transportation services to eligible households whose students are attending non-public schools.

      MPS audits enrollment records annually to ensure that the allocation we are providing matches the number of eligible households/students attending the school.

      MPS pays the school for the transportation services and it is the school’s responsibility to provide the service.

  • Amy Luby

    This is a typical example of how private voucher schools profit and then fail from lack of accountability. Who approved this school’s charter? Who oversees this school’s fiscal accountability? Do the the politicians that are creating these voucher schools care about our kids’ futures at all?

    • squishy

      No and that’s all we’ve been saying about republicants making these decisions simply because they don’t care about minorities and further, would love to see minorities fail (oppression)

  • Jack

    Private schools,cancer charities,republican party,democratic party, and government are all total shams!

  • Ubiquitous King

    Christians and their scams. They should go to the mythological hell they so do not believe in.

  • Laurene Bach

    We need oversight of Voucher schools. Plain and simple. If the state is giving them that kind of money we need to know what is happening with it and what they are doing with the kids.

  • Nicole

    My 2 boys were enrolled in the “school” for the 2012-2013 shool year and it was horrible! The so-called teachers weren’t licensed and allowed the students to call them by their first names. Parents were asked to supply certain food items to help with a end of the year picnic but my son came home and told me that all the items were being sold at the 8th grade graduation dinner. I was highly upset! My youngest son ended up being a whole year behind in reading, writing and math because of this zoo.

    • Mel

      Nicole,

      Seriously!? I cannot feel sympathy for you or any of the parents of children that attended or attend here. You need to actually sit down and research where you are going to put your child. Research means asking other parents who had children attend there what their experience was, make aure that the teachers their are actually LICENSED teachers, speak to the board of education to see what they rate this school as and finally ACTUALLY attend a day when classes are on session to see first had whats going on there. Most of all, as mothers, you need to actually PAY attention to the child’s curriculum. How could you not notice your baby not reading properly!? I really believe the home is where the love of learning starts. If you work I understand, but I do more than full time too and I MAKE time to sit down with my child to read with them and review their homework. So I am sorry, but you not being able to notice your child is severely behind in reading is unacceptable. You are the childs first line of defense, you sound like you have more than one child so you should have recognized that your youngest was severly behind where your other kids were at this age. While I blame the school for being an absolute profit factory, with trash running it, you mom are the one that needs to protect your children from being preyed upon by scum like this. I thank you for your honesty and for getting involved and helping expose these criminals for what they are, fraudulent con men. Shut this junk house down. And for the love of God almighty, who would EVER accept an application like that for a regular job, let alone an application for the accredation of a school!?

    • antonio

      First of all the founder can not be a bishop! Us and these titles! If you read and study the bible! 1 Timothy 3 :1-2, the husband of one wife! Read that scriptures!

      • lakeel05

        Don’t see the pertinence of your remark, as those stipulations are based on a singular document, which not everyone believes or honors.

  • Bob

    Another school that has been scamming the taxpayer and families with their children for over 2 decades is Hickman Academy on the north side of Milwaukee. I also witnessed personally how poorly run this private choice school is. It is a travesty that they are allowed to even keep their doors open!

  • Bob

    Hickman Academy warehouses students that are major discipline problems until they get their final check from the government in January, and then they finally expel them after they have disrupted the education of other students for the first 5 months of the school year. They also hire teachers without education degrees or 4 year degrees to save money that goes in the pockets of the owners of the school. Schools such as this should not be allowed to hurt the education of our students in Wisconsin.

  • Mel

    This kind of story makes me not want to pay taxes, I am sick and tired of my hard earned money funding garbage like this. Thanks Walker, it saved the state sooo much by letting idiots open schools with fake teachers and crooks running it huh!? And the worst of this is that our future, our most precious of resources, our CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING BECAUSE OF THIS!!! No education system supervisory board should EVER have even accepted this sorry excuse for an application either. I mean REALLY!? Obviously if you saw that the people trying to apply weren’t even basically educated in language, spelling and punctuation it should have told you NOT TO WASTE OUR MONEY, BUT MOST OF ALL OUR YOUNG MINDS with these crooks! And this trash doesn’t just hurt the African American community, it hurts America as a whole. I still can’t wrap my mind around this, the state knew what these people were doing and still let them continue on for ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR!? This is an absolute TRAVESTY, the fake lady of the cloth should be criminally prosecuted for this. And she has the gall to put Doctor and Bishop on her as titles!? Doctor of what!? Idiocy? PHD in fraud huh…

  • lakeel05

    Yup.
    So multiply this situation times how many “private” charter schools, and you have how many questionable educational experiences, how much wasted taxpayer money that’s desperately needed in the public school system?
    The Scott Walker spending policy, i.e. WEDC, school voucher system, etc..
    Take taxpayer funds, hand it out to friends & supporters, no follow-up on how $$$ is being spent, then squeeze the money out of the UW, public schools, public works, whoever doesn’t contribute to your campaign, or have any pull to help him achieve his personal goals.

  • lakeel05

    PS: Let’s squeeze every last cent possible out of Ms Pinkney- unless there were no legal stipulations attached to the funding her “school” has received.

Comments are closed.