Report critical of charter school oversight
September 18, 2014 | By Susan Frey | No Comments
A lack of oversight of the nation’s charter schools has led to too many cases of fraud and abuse and too little attention to equity, according to a new report that offers recommendations to remedy the situation.
The largest problems are a lack of transparency and having school managers serve on
governing boards, said report author Leigh Dingerson, a consultant to the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. The institute released the report, Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight, on Thursday.
In one example, about $1.8 million in public money provided to the Cleveland Academy of Scholarship, Technology, and Leadership Enterprise was funneled to 13 shell companies associated with members of the governing board, according to the report.
Because of their autonomy from the regular public school system, charter schools in general face less scrutiny regarding finances, Dingerson said.
“There needs to be a full reporting of data and finances and a separation of governing boards from their management companies,” she said. “That would go a long, long way to cleaning up the most egregious waste of public dollars that I have seen.”
The report includes some startling examples, such as the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in Philadelphia, which a report by a local TV station revealed was doubling as a nightclub in the school’s cafeteria at nights and weekends.
Jason Mandell, director of Advocacy Communications for the California Charter Schools Association, said his organization supports transparency. But, he said, “there is a danger of being so restrictive that you are missing the entire point of the flexibility and autonomy allowing charters to thrive.” He pointed out that public schools and districts have also been charged with financial mismanagement.
“There needs to be a full reporting of data and finances and a separation of governing boards from their management companies,” said Leigh Dingerson, author of the report. “That would go a long, long way to cleaning up the most egregious waste of public dollars that I have seen.”
Dingerson agrees that fraud can happen anywhere, but she pointed to a report that found losses of $100 million due to fraud and corruption in charter schools across the country, including some in California. The charter schools association, in a response to that report, said California law is stronger than laws in many other states.
“There are things that happen in charter and regular schools that you just can’t legislate to prevent,” Mandell said.
Still, Dingerson said, “I think there are protections that could be in place that might at least help ferret out the fraud and corruption before it goes too far down the road.”
She said other charter school problems include rules and procedures that result in excluding students. Charter schools sometimes have different enrollment and Report critical of charter school oversight | EdSource: