Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education have released a scathing report on charter school fraud, waste, and abuse. The main thrust of the report is not that charters are per se bad, but that they have outgrown the underlying theory supporting them. In plain-peak, the original theory of charters was "to allow educators to explore new methods and models of teaching," which requiring exempting charters "from the vast majority of [school] regulations." This incubation of innovation involved "calculated risks with small populations of willing teachers, parents, and students." Because the people involved were few in number, the risk was low. In recent years, however, the numbers have grown and so has the risk. A corresponding level of innovation has not followed.
In a review of 15 states with large charter school markets, the report found that “charter operator fraud and mismanagement is endemic," falling into six categories:
• Charter operators using public funds illegally for personal gain;
• School revenue used to illegally support other charter operator businesses;
• Mismanagement that puts children in actual or potential danger;
• Charters illegally requesting public dollars for services not provided;
• Charter operators illegally inflating enrollment to boost revenues; and,
• Charter operators mismanaging public funds and schools.
In those 15 states, the report identified $100 million in taxpayer losses. The report calls for oversight legislation to address the problem in the future.
Some might question whether this report is "fair," as it does not offer a picture of the "baseline" fraud that might be find in other institutions, including traditional public schools. With that said, this report is a followup to the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General's initial findings of similar problems. In that respect, its impetus would appear legitimate. Likewise, the report calls for more oversight, not a wholesale retreat charter schools.