One way or the other, it seems, the folks behind Prime Prep Academy, Deion Sanders' taxpayer-funded charter school, are going to make some money off it. It's just a matter of how -- and how much.
The "how" is a little clearer today, after Oprah Winfrey's cable network announced plans to air a reality show about the school, produced by Sanders and his girlfriend.
The Observer reported last spring that Sanders' business partner, D.L. Wallace, had been caught by the Texas Education Agency trying charge his own school as much as $10,500 a month in rent, for a property Wallace didn't even own.
And Prime Prep Academy's original charter application included a "sales/marketing" agreement with PrimeTimePlayer, a company whose officers include Wallace and Chazma Jones, both Prime Prep board members. The school would pay the company thousands of dollars for its services, plus commission.
That was after Wallace and Sanders got sued by parents who said the men swindled them out of money they'd invested in a college recruiting service. (The suit was eventually dropped.)
Now Sanders is again mingling his business interests with his charter school. Winfrey's OWN network announced today that it has "lined up a docuseries" that will "explore Sanders' life as he balances raising five kids while guiding Prime Prep Academy, the charter school he created."
The show is being produced by Sanders' Prime Time Entertainment and Edmonds Entertainment, the company of his girlfriend, Tracey Edmonds.
Financial arrangements weren't disclosed, so it's unknown whether Sanders will actually make money from the deal with Winfrey's network. But it won't matter if he does: Despite being the founder and coach for the taxpayer-funded charter school, Sanders is legally allowed to profit from a related business, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said today.
As long as the school adheres to student privacy laws, she said, "there is nothing in the charter law or charter contract to prohibit" Sanders from making a show about the school.
Even if he makes money off it? We asked her to clarify. She simply repeated herself: "There is nothing in the charter law or charter contract to prohibit it."
Wallace, who pays himself $130,000 a year as Prime Prep CEO, did not return a call for comment. Neither Sanders' nor Edmonds' company websites have contact information; we're trying to reach them and will update if we do.