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Hussman, Walton money fuel e-Stem

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It's taken nearly $8 million to open the doors to the three e-Stem charter schools, $1.495 million in outright grants and the rest in loans from the Walton Family Foundation and Walter Hussman.

The public charter schools, which opened in July in the former Arkansas Gazette building at Third and Louisiana, released financial data in early August.

E-Stem Public Charter Schools Inc., the non-profit organization headed up by Dr. Roy Brooks that manages the three schools, is operating on a $745,000 grant from the Walton foundation. Other revenues for 2008-09 include administrative fees charged the schools of $118,728 and $8,000 in Medicaid billing. To stay in business, the non-profit, also known as the CMO (charter management office), will have to raise its budget from charitable giving every year.

The Walton foundation also gave $250,000 to each of the three e-Stem charter schools in start-up grants. (To take advantage of the Walton grants and federal start-up grants of $150,000, each school was incorporated as its own district and a separate non-profit corporation.)

Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, loaned e-Stem schools up to $3.2 million each to refurbish and equip their building, which he owns and which he's leasing to the schools for $491,370 a year. The school is to repay Hussman what it's borrowed in excess of $600,000, at 6 percent interest, when the five-year lease expires in 2013. The schools have an option to buy the building for $3 million.

The Walton foundation also loaned the schools $3.2 million for construction and equipment. That money will be repaid, without interest, in the five years after the Hussman debt is paid, Joe Mittiga, chief operating officer for the CMO, said.

E-Stem will use its annual state funding — nearly $5 million in 2008-09 — to pay rent and debt to Hussman and the Walton foundation. State funds will increase the next three years as e-Stem high school adds its 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

Brooks, the former superintendent of the Little Rock Public Schools and the CMO's chief executive officer, is paid a salary of $198,000, his base salary at the 26,000-student LRSD before he was fired by the Little Rock School Board last year. Chief Financial Officer Mark Milhollen's salary is $129,888. COO Mittiga's salary is $100,488. Both Milhollen and Mittiga worked for the LRSD.

The office also employs a data analysis director at $70,000 and an office manager at $38,000.

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