Sunday, February 19, 2017

KJ's No Accountability Charter School Chickens Coming Home to Roost? | The Sacramento Bee

Del Paso Heights adult charter school under investigation for overcharging state | The Sacramento Bee:
Del Paso Heights adult charter school under investigation for allegedly overcharging state

Highlands Community Charter School is under investigation for allegedly enrolling adult students in primary grades, double-charging the state and claiming a full year of funding for students who attended for a shorter period of time.
The Sacramento County Office of Education began investigating the Del Paso Heights school after the California Department of Education raised red flags about Highlands’ reimbursement practices.
The adult charter school serves about 1,500 students from a variety of backgrounds, according to Executive Director Murdock Smith. Highlands offers high school completion, English classes, citizenship courses and vocational training. The school opened in 2014 to initially focus on ex-offenders.
The county’s investigation became public after Sacramento County schools chief David Gordon distributed a memo to local school districts recommending the audit.
Gordon said he hired the state’s Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team because of its experience with audits. “They have done hundreds of them and have access to an audit-type staff,” he said. “We don’t have an audit staff in-house.”
Smith was adamant that his school’s business practices were above board. “Ninety-nine percent of the memo is just crazy,” he said.
He confirmed that his school sought state reimbursement at transitional kindergarten through high school levels for adult students. But he defended that practice.
“How can an 80-year-old be a kindergartener?” Students at the school are put into grade levels based on ability, he said.
“Nowhere in the Ed Code links age to grade level,” he added.
State reimbursement for students in K-12 is higher than the money available for adult education programs, which are now funded by regional consortium programs, Gordon said.
The state Education Code allows schools to receive a K-12 level of reimbursement for adults who have not been continuously enrolled in school, said Natasha Collins, a senior fiscal and policy analyst at the Legislative Analyst’s Office. To qualify, schools need to work with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act agencies and other federal programs geared toward educating adults.
Highlands Community Charter School has partnerships with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, which is authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
More than a dozen adult charter schools enroll their students in K-12 grades and receive state funding for those grade levels, said Laura Kerr, managing regional director of the California Charter Schools Association, which advocates for charter schools.
The Sacramento County Office of Education launched its investigation after reviewing a 2015 school audit, the Highlands website and recruitment materials, according to a memo written by SCOE Assistant Superintendent Tamara Sanchez.
The county office is responsible for providing oversight of school finances and took action after the state Department of Education inquired about potential improprieties. State officialsDel Paso Heights adult charter school under investigation for overcharging state | The Sacramento Bee:

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