Charter Oversight Needed Now

buck stopsby Carol Clark Hentschel, Palm Beach

Palm Beach has had more than its share of problems with failing charter schools.  Citizens there want better management oversight.  Carol is the Palm Beach League’s education team chair.  She makes a strong argument that the time is now for change.  The buck stops with us.  We have to insist on better accountability and oversight.

President Obama’s proposed budget for 2016 includes $375 million specifically for charter schools (a 48% increase over last year’s actual budget).  To date the federal government has contributed over $2.8 billion through several grant programs specifically designed to grow the number of charter schools in the U.S.

The Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a memorandum to the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII).  The purpose was to alert OII of the steady increase in the number of charter school complaints and the OIG’s concern about vulnerabilities in the oversight of charter schools.

The state level agencies were failing to provide adequate oversight,therefore, OIG conducted a significant investigation of charter schools from January 2005 through September 30 2014.  The Office of Inspector General -OIG, opened 65 CS investigations, resulted in 41 indictments, and 30 convictions of CS officials.

Ohio’s State Auditor David Host said CS misspends public money 4 times more often any other type of taxpayer funded agency.  No sector, not local government, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals misspend tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.  Since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charters many run by for profit companies.

In January 2015 the Ohio State Auditor released a report of the result of unannounced visits by inspectors to 30 charter schools.  In half the schools, the school provided headcounts that were significantly higher than the auditors headcount.  Schools are  funded based on headcounts, so these inflated figures amount to taxpayer dollars siphoned away from students.  Among the 7 schools with the most variance between reported headcounts and auditors headcounts almost 900 students were missing at a cost of roughly $5.7 million.

The debate in our Florida legislative halls should not be whether or not to regulate the charter industry, but how and how soon!!

The joint Legislative Auditing Committee appointed Sherrill Folz Norman to the position of Auditor General State of Florida effective July1,2015.  The appointment was confirmed by the Florida Senate and House of Representatives during the 2015 Legislative session.

Mission- As the State’s independent auditor the Auditor General provides unbiased, timely, and relevant information which can be Legislative, Florida Citizens, public management and other state holders to promote government accountability and stewardship and improve government operations.

We should introduce ourselves and congratulate her- flaudgen dsb charter@aud.State.fl.US.(850 412 2881) and ask her to:

1.  Require full public financial disclosure by charter management organization expenditures and profits related to the operation of each school they serve.
2.  To suggest to all district school board superintendents in Florida’s 67 districts:  To require all charter applicants and existing CS’s to be independently audited on an annual basis, with protection of such audit available on line at the CS website.  The audit would be provided at the CS expense.
3.  Make charter schools and all authorizers subject to state laws regarding freedom of information, public records, and public meetings; create specific and escalating sanctions for schools that fail to comply

Posted in Audits, Charter School Management, Department of Education, US Government.

2 Comments

  1. These same issues arise across the nation. Here in Pennsylvania, we have used the LWVUS position on privatization to advocate for changes in charter legislation.

    • Sharon,

      We would like to know the specific recommendations in legislation that your League has. Please send yours and I will post them. Have you seen the report of the Florida study on school choice?

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