Shame on the Washington Post. A recent barrage of charter school coverage by said paper, including a front page story brazenly entitled "Public Role, Private Gain," has wrongly raked a civic minded business man over the metaphoric coals. He's Thomas A. Nida, chairman of the DC Public Charter School Board, the primary authorizer of charter schools in DC, and an employee of United Bank. The problem, alleges the Post, which these days seems to prefer muckraking and scandal mongering to accuracy or fairness, is that United Bank makes loans to DC charters and Nida's yearly bonus is partly derived from the loans he generates. This may be true, but without Nida there would be no loans at all--and that's something worth considering. Before he stepped in, banks typically thought charters--especially loans for their facilities--were too risky. Thanks to Nida, DC charters have an advocate who can explain in bankers' lingo that charters are a worthwhile investment. Given the number of states where it is virtually impossible to win such a loan--and the number of charter schools unborn or handicapped as a result--this is an important role to play. (Let us tell you about Ohio sometime!) While it's always good to watch for conflicts of interest, which may or may not exist in Nida's case, sometimes these are trumped by the public benefit of, in this case, an honorable and hard-working fellow who has done great good for D.C.'s charter schools and the tens of thousands of youngsters who now attend them. Consider, for starters, where those kids would otherwise be.
"Public Role, Private Gain," by David S. Fallis and April Witt, Washington Post, December 14, 2008
"Tighter Control of Charters Urged," by Derek Kravitz and April Witt, Washington Post, December 16, 2008
"Pilloried for Volunteering in D.C. Schools," by Robert H. Braunohler, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, December 17, 2008