Feds Awarded Colorado Charter Schools $46 Million because of "Hiring and Firing" Rules
Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded Colorado $46 million under the Charter Schools Program. Part of the reason the state landed the competitive grant was that charters are free to hire unlicensed teachers and then fire them at will, documents reviewed by CMD show.
Designed to create and expand “high-quality” charter schools, the quarter-billion-dollar-a-year program has been repeatedly criticized by the watchdogs at the department's Office of the Inspector General watchdog for suspected waste and poor financial controls.
Two weeks ago, CMD revealed that there are currently nationwide probes underway into closed charter schools and the “lack of accountability” within the program.
As Congress stands poised to reauthorize the program—and quite possibly expand it by 48 percent—ED has deflected all criticism. It has told stakeholders that while it has stepped up its monitoring activities and efforts to hold states accountable, it is mainly “the responsibility of states to make sure they develop and submit plans” to ensure that the federal millions end up in classrooms rather than missing in action.
Well, do they? CMD continues its investigation by taking a closer look at the reality on the ground. First out is Colorado.
Seeking "Non-Certified Personnel"
When Colorado applied for the competitive grant in 2010, four out of five reviewers contracted by ED to score the application raised concerns about the lack of oversight and accountability, especially when it came to charter school authorizers:
- “There is no detail on how authorizers are monitored.”
- “[I]t is not clear what step will be taken to hold authorizers accountable.”
- “The response could be strengthened by providing more detail to ways in which authorizers will be held accountable.”
- “The states[!] plan for evaluation of changes in authorizer practices is limited to self-reporting of improved policies.”
But this was more than made up for by what the reviewers considered to be a strong plan for how charters would improve student achievement, and the “flexibility” charter schools enjoy under Colorado law. One reviewer, for example, enthused over schools having complete autonomy when it comes to “hiring and firing,” employing “non-certified personnel, and not abiding by union agreements.
Colorado Education Department Pushes Back against Oversight
The Schools of Choice Office (SOC) at the Colorado Department of Education is responsible for managing the CSP grants by vetting the charter schools applying, and by making sure that those awarded money comply with federal guidelines during the whole grant cycle. The Office is also tasked with developing guidelines for charter school applications, and with collecting and compiling data on school performance.
CMD’s review of emails obtained through an open records request does not, however, show an independent agency judiciously reviewing grant applications as much as an office rewarding grants on a whim, and pushing for even less- See more at: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/06/12866/feds-awarded-colorado-charter-schools-46-million-because-hiring-and-firing-rules#sthash.pfvIsoc1.dpuf