Thursday, October 3, 2013
DC now adds itself to the growing list of cities that have experienced a charter school scandal over the past few months. Tuesday, the DC attorney general filed suit against three managers at Options Public Charter School, alleging they had diverted $3 million in charter school funding to enrich themselves. Also implicated is the chairman of the school's board of trustees. The diversion of funds allegedly comes from the awarding of bus transportation and school management contracts, along with the huge bonuses the school's managers received at the end of their terms for a job purportedly well done.
Putting this lawsuit in national perspective without just lumping on charters is difficult. There has been no shortage of large scale scandals with charters over the past few months. But traditional public schools have had their own scandals over the past year or so too, particularly in regard to cheating on standardized tests. Yet, given the number of traditional public schools in operation, these scandals would not appear reflective of a systemic trend in public education. They do, however, reveal the mounting pressures being placed on all teachers and the predictable results that can follow in some places.
The charter school scandals are, likewise, small in regard to the overall number of charters, but given the relatively small number of charters, the number and frequency of the scandals over the past few months is troubling. Just as the pressures on teachers in traditional public schools create certain incentives, the large sums of money and the lack of government oversight create another set of perverse incentives in charter schools. Unfortunately, these incentives are having a stronger effect, or the media (and bloggers) have turned on charters and are all too happy to have bad news on which to report.