Charter schools investigation finds millions in tax dollars wasted; Inside influence with policymakers
A national investigation into charter school spending has found millions of tax dollars wasted or spent inappropriately. Investigators also found emails revealing an inside influence of charter school companies with Indiana policymakers.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) found “At least $2.2 million was awarded to Indiana charters that either closed or never opened. In addition, emails obtained by CMD through a public records request to Gov. Pence's office found troubling examples of how the private charter sector, notably for-profit chain Charter Schools USA, influences on policy-making.”
CMD’s investigation reveals that the public does not have ready access to key information about how their $3.7 billion in federal and state taxes are being spent to fuel the charter school industry since the 1990s.
CMD further states:
What is even more troubling is how little is known about how charters are spending federal and state tax dollars, even as governments continue to increase funding for them while slashing funds for traditional public schools. Unlike truly public schools, which have to account for prospective and past spending in public budgets provided to democratically elected school boards, charter spending is largely a black hole.
This is due in part to the way laws governing charters have been built by proponents, favoring “flexibility” over rules. That flexibility has allowed an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools. Charters are policed—if they policed much at all—mainly by charter proponents, within government agencies and private entities with too limited oversight over “authorizers.”
CMD focused on a handful of states, including Indiana, for their overly liberal policies regulating charter schools. The Indiana schools targeted for scrutiny are:
• Andrew Academy in Indianapolis received $700,000 in planning and implementation grants. The charter was forced to close in 2015 because of poor student performance.
• Padua Academy in Indianapolis lost its charter in 2014 and converted to a private religious school, but not before receiving $702,000 in federal seed money.
• The Indiana Cyber Charter School opened in 2012 with a $420,000 CSP implementation grant. Dogged by financial scandals and terrible student results the charter was revoked and it closed in 2015, leaving 1,100 students in the lurch.
• Via Charter School was awarded a $193,000 planning grant, but never opened.
• Early Career Academy landed a $193,000 planning grant and was due to open last year. This has been postponed due to “governance issues,” according to the school. (This charter is sponsored by a for-profit college—ITT Tech—being sued by the federal government for urging students to get loans for college credits that do not transfer.
Emails obtained through a public records request by CMD found Governor Pence’s staff working closely with Charter Schools USA to reach the governor’s goal of expanding the number of charter schools by 34 percent.
CMD’s full report, including its findings in Indiana, can be found on the organization’s website.
Read More: Record Number of Traditional Public Schools Earn an “A”; Vastly outperform charter schools