Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fraud, Waste, and Lies: Charter Schools Cheating Communities Out of Millions of Dollars | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Fraud, Waste, and Lies: Charter Schools Cheating Communities Out of Millions of Dollars | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community:

Fraud, Waste, and Lies: Charter Schools Cheating Communities Out of Millions of Dollars

New report warns that, due to lack of oversight, 'vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected'


"Charter schools act like they have a 'get out of accountability free' card," said Jonathan Stith, spokesperson for the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. (Image courtesy of report)




 Accepting and soliciting bribes. Diverting public funds for personal profit. Lying about the number of students. These are just a few examples of the fraud and malfeasance committed by charter school officials—cheating communities out of millions dollars that were supposed to go to education, a new report finds.

The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse (pdf) was released Tuesday by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).
It concludes that, in 15 states alone—a third of states with charter schools—such waste cost more than $200 million.
This number is significantly higher than estimates released last year by CPD, which identified at least $136 million lost to fraud and waste. The revised figure of $203 million includes "all of the cases from the 2014 report, $23 million in new cases, and $44 million in additional cases not included in  the 2014 report," the study states.
"Charter schools act like they have a 'get out of accountability free' card," Jonathan Stith, spokesperson for AROS, said in a press statement. "Two-hundred-million dollars that was supposed to go to schools and classrooms is just gone. And that's likely to be the tip of the iceberg, given the lack of transparency or standards applied to charter schools."
However, the report warns, "The number of instances of serious fraud uncovered by whistleblowers, reporters, and investigations suggests that the fraud problem extends well beyond the cases we know about. According to standard forensic auditing methodologies, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout the country suggest that federal, state, and local governments stand to lose more than $1.4 billion in 2015."
"The vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud," the report adds.
 The report cited numerous examples of such transgressions in charter schools from California to Ohio, including the case of a Washington, D.C. institution, highlighted in asummary of the findings:
The DC Public Charter School Board unanimously revoked the charter of Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School—which enrolled 1,600 students across three campuses and an online academy—after the school’s founder, Kent Amos, was accused of diverting funds from the school for his personal profit. Despite evidence that Amos—who is currently being sued by the 
Fraud, Waste, and Lies: Charter Schools Cheating Communities Out of Millions of Dollars | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community:

Charter school dissolves amid charges of nepotism, fiscal mismanagement, enrollment fraud - News - recordnet.com - Stockton, CA

Charter school dissolves amid charges of nepotism, fiscal mismanagement, enrollment fraud - News - recordnet.com - Stockton, CA:

Charter school dissolves amid charges of nepotism, fiscal mismanagement, enrollment fraud






STOCKTON — Renew Virtual Academies, a charter school in the New Jerusalem School District, has been dissolved and its roughly 80 students absorbed into other sites amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement, nepotism and enrollment fraud against the school's founder.
Among the charges were that CEO Ellen Ringer hired her son, Deputy Executive Director of Business Services Christopher Walenta, at an annual salary of nearly $100,000 and paid other relatives without disclosing the relationships, New Jerusalem School District officials confirmed.
Ringer and Walenta were forced by trustees of the Renew Virtual Academies board to resign earlier this year after district officials discovered budget discrepancies late last year and looked further into the charter school’s management, New Jerusalem Superintendent David Thoming said. Criminal charges potentially could follow.
“By the first week in January, we realized that they were over-reporting the amount of students they had in order to make their budget work,” he said, adding that Ringer reported enrollment to determine state Average Daily Attendance funding “roughly double” the actual number of about 80 students. The school’s original charter petition projected 200 students in the 2014-15 school year; her son’s director position was not included in the proposal.
“At that point we questioned why she still had on her payroll a chief financial officer who was making a pretty decent amount of money, and we received an email back from her telling us how great this individual was and how indispensable to the organization he has been to start, and the last sentence in the email said, ‘and this has nothing to do with the fact that this is my son,’ ” Thoming said. “And at the point we realized that we had a much bigger problem.”
Ringer, of Rocklin, declined an interview request, responding to questions submitted by email.
“Neither myself nor any of the leadership of RVA did anything illegal or immoral," she said in an email Thursday.
Ringer approached New Jerusalem in 2013 about granting a charter targeting “those students who are really kind of the forgotten students in our community, the teenage mothers, the students that drop out in their senior year, the students that get forgotten by the traditional system,” Thorning said.
In a letter and job offer to Walenta dated March 1, 2014, Ringer wrote that he had been working as an independent contractor for the school and earning $7,500 per month since January 2014, and offered him an annual compensation of $96,000 plus executive-level benefits as well as permission to telecommute for two weeks of each month from his Lone Tree, Colorado, home.
Chase Bank statements listed under the Renew Virtual Academy name, the same account where grant funds were deposited, show charges for airplane tickets, hotels, restaurants and other expenses that Ringer declined to explain when contacted.
In an email Wednesday, Ringer said her son’s salary was “approved independently by RVA's Board of Directors and determined by an outside agency … (that) based his salary on his qualifications and experience.” Walenta’s résumé lists no educational experience, but it does list “guest relations” and “customer service” management positions at the Elephant Bar and Chili’s and a supervisorial position at Sprint for the DeVry University graduate.
Three of the four members of the charter school’s board were appointed by Ringer, state documents show, including a co-founder of the company run by Ringer. A fourth, Delta Charter Schools Superintendent Jeff Tilton, who served as authorizing representative and ran for San Joaquin County superintendent of schools last year, said he never was informed of the relationship between Ringer and her son or other family members and resigned immediately when he found out.
In addition, Walenta’s wife, Corey, was approved for $10,000 for independent contractor work in January 2014 from funds received from the federal Public Charter School Grant Program, a contract agreement shows.
“We found out not only had she hired her son, she had also hired her daughter-in-law, her sister, and there are some payments that we can’t quite figure out to the father of her son — the level of nepotism there is astounding,” Thoming said.  
In addition to state funding of $926,435, Ringer reported in 2014-15 documents filed with the state, Renew Virtual Academy was awarded a $375,000 Public Charter Schools Grant Program Planning and Implementation Grant in September 2013, the California Department of Education reported, and an additional $250,000 loan from the Charter School Revolving Loan Fund Program in 2013-14. Coming in at more than $1.5 million, that’s nearly $20,000 per student, roughly twice what the school should have received for 80 students.
In light of their discoveries, New Jerusalem officials asked the San Joaquin County Office of Education to investigate; the county office has requested an audit from the state’s Fiscal Crisis Management Assessment Team, a quasi-governmental agency created by the Legislature.
“If (that team) suspects illegal activity when they’re done, they’ll refer findings to the D.A.’s Office,” said Zachary K. Johnson, a spokesman for the county office. “When a school closes midyear, it is a disruptive thing,” not just to the students but to their families and teachers."
New Jerusalem tried to keep the school open but realized its finances were “too far upside Charter school dissolves amid charges of nepotism, fiscal mismanagement, enrollment fraud - News - recordnet.com - Stockton, CA:

WANTED: Teachers — Education’s revolutionary uprising | The Underdog's Advocate

WANTED: Teachers — Education’s revolutionary uprising | The Underdog's Advocate:

WANTED: Teachers — Education’s revolutionary uprising



May issue-01


 by Ryan B. Jackson, Ed.D

If April showers bring May flowers then what, in turn, do these undeniable symbols of spring really bring? For the answer, look no further than your community school, job fair or university graduation ceremony: New Teachers.
Spring sets the stage or plants the seeds (to keep the analogy going) for fall’s new teaching recruits to embark on an age-old journey, where self-interest and financial fortune are abandoned and replaced with a commitment to one of the most noble yet unsung professions the world has ever known. Understandably, after reading that last line, skeptics just rolled their eyes and scoffed at the word “noble” and I cannot blame them. In fact, as an educator in-love with the profession and passionate about its indelible impact on society, I, too, often wonder why anyone in their right mind would willingly dive into a hurricane-infested profession that supplies no life preserver, vague swimming lessons, and reluctant lifeguards. Yet as a second-year administrator, I am astonished and admittedly proud to report that there are still those courageous enough to try their hand at teaching, all the while our nation’s educational landscape seems inevitably destined for civil war.
The question still remains, however: Why would any sane, self-respecting adult commit to a profession that has systematically been underpaid, devalued, even outright ostracized by society at large?
To even begin to answer this head-scratching riddle, I had to reflect on my own pursuits of the profession. In 2007 I simply wanted to teach kids how to write better. Working as a copywriter in the marketing department of a local business, I began tutoring a pair of brothers whose mother had sincere concerns about their ability to articulate thoughts into compelling sentences and paragraphs. And, like most teachers can attest, it only took one tutoring session before I was hooked. The mental connections, the synapse firings, the rush of reading a well-written essay — I knew instantly teaching was for me.
Unfortunately, teaching in the heart of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era slapped a rude awakening on my dreams of Socratic seminars centered around the art and science of great writing. Immediately, I was inundated with an accountability-based standardized testing doctrine that was undeniably pressuring teachers to trim the proverbial creative fat from teaching and learning for a leaner, test-prep cut of education. Undaunted, I searched for meaningful, impactful approaches to a test-centered education paradigm. My teaching mentor Ryan Murphey (@ryanomurphey) became Butch Cassidy to my Sundance Kid, as we fashioned ourselves as teaching outlaws committed to thought-provoking teaching styles with universal themes as our ammunition. In those days, I primarily taught junior-level English, and our big focus was the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) writing assessment, as well as the ACT (although the ACT had yet to really solidify itself as the go-to measure for college readiness — at least in the urban school I served). Laughingly, we thought the stakes were high then! In WANTED: Teachers — Education’s revolutionary uprising | The Underdog's Advocate:

My Position on the Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft | deutsch29

My Position on the Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft | deutsch29:

My Position on the Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft






I have read (and reread certain sections of) the entire 601-page Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), written by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and named the Every Child Achieves  Act of 2015.
I have also read the 29 amendments that were added to the Act as it gained approval from the Senate Ed Committee on April 16, 2015.
In an effort to offer my readers a digest of the massive Senate ESEA draft, I wrote a series of six posts that can be accessed here. I also did the same for the 29 amendments, which resulted in a series of three posts that can be accessed here.
During this massive undertaking, I have had individuals asking about my position on the Senate ESEA draft. Even though some of my posts include glimpses into my thoughts about the Alexander-Murray draft (and now, its included 29 amendments), I have not yet offered a summative word regarding my opinion of this proposed ESEA reauthorization.
I will do so now.
Until something happens, whether that “something” is a new version of ESEA or killing ESEA, school districts across America are stuck with George W. Bush’s infamously ridiculous and punitive version of ESEA known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In short, NCLB told America that there would be “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014″ or else teachers, administrators, schools, school districts, and states would pay. The premise of NCLB is that teachers and administrators could be scared into producing a never-before-known (in any country) level of test-centered “proficiency.” And states were set up to “prove” they were on the road to this perfection by setting up their own “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) toward this perfect goal, which was perched precariously on the test scores of at least 95 percent of a state’s students. Not achieving AYP could result in dire consequences, including the firing teachers and administration as part of school “restructuring.” (For an excellent summary of NCLB consequences, see Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System, pgs. 97-98.)
As one might expect in such a ridiculous high-stakes situation, in an effort to avoid NCLB consequences, states gamed the system to create AYP goals that they could achieve.
An entire nation of school districts boasting “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014″ was not to be, and any individual with a sliver of common sense knew it.
So, 2014 has come and gone, and states remain under NCLB until ESEA is either completely done away with or redrafted and reauthorized. And by “under NCLB,” that means states are subject to the likes of US Secretary Arne Duncan’s NCLB “waivers,” in which he has decided to leverage control over both state standards and teacher evaluation. Otherwise, without one of his “on my terms” NCLB waivers, Duncan can declare any state as having failed to meet that unrealistic NCLB goal of “100 percent proficiency in reading and math.”
Stupid, I know. But that is where we are (and where we remain) until something happens to dismiss or replace the ESEA version known as NCLB.
Now, I mentioned that one option is to completely do away with ESEA. That is my preferred position, one that I wrote about on February 1, 2015. That post included an email I wrote to Alexander in which I suggested that ESEA be sunsetted in favor of separate block grants.
The reality is that ESEA will not be laid to rest. It will continue, and either Congress will fail in its efforts to reauthorize it and default for another seven years to NCLB (which means NCLB “waivers”)–or– Congress will reauthorize a new version of ESEA.
There are two versions currently in the running, one originating in the House (Kline’sHR 5, the Student Success Act) and the Senate (Alexander and Murray’s Every Child Achieves Act of 2015). Both bills propose to retain the mandatory annual state testing in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in both English language arts (ELA) and math. Both bills encourage charter school growth and expansion. Both include language forbidding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a federal mandate. HR 5 includes language to make Title I money “follow the student,” which would be an accounting and budgeting nightmare.
I think the Senate draft is the better of the two bills. It appears to be a true, Republican-Democratic negotiation that could garner the votes needed to rid America of NCLB (and Duncan’s waivers), and it does not include portability of Title I funding.
As for the charter love in the Senate ESEA draft, I do not support the encouragement My Position on the Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft | deutsch29:

Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 5/3/15



SPECIAL NITE CAP - CATCH UP ON TODAY'S POST 5/3/15


Special Nite Cap 

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