by Brian Washington
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A new report charges that Pennsylvania charter school operators have engaged in fraud and abuse amounting to about $30 million.
It was released today by several non-profit groups including the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), Integrity in Education, and ACTION United. The report is called, Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools.
The report claims that within the past 17 years, charter school operators in Pennsylvania have abused the system of at least $30 million. It also asserts that state agencies, charged with overseeing charter schools, are not up to the job of weeding out fraud and abuse.
While the state has a complex, multi-layered system of oversight of the charter system, this history of financial fraud makes clear that the systems are clearly not up to the task of effectively detecting or preventing fraud. Indeed, the vast majority of fraud was uncovered by whistleblowers and media exposées, not by the state’s oversight agencies.
More than 2 million students attend approximately 6,000 charter schools nationwide. Charter schools were originally intended to serve as centers of innovation that spawn new and improved approaches to teaching and learning that could later be shared with traditional public schools. However, critics charge the rapid expansion of the charter school industry has led to problems concerning oversight, accountability, wasteful spending, and fraud.
In May, CPD released a whistleblowing report called, “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.” That report alleges that waste and abuse linked to charter schools nationwide has cost taxpayers an estimated $100 million.
In addition, the Annenberg Institute at Brown University released a report this month calling for higher standards for charter schools regarding accountability, transparency, and equity.
In a statement released today, Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, representing more than 3 million educators nationwide, said it’s time for lawmakers to demand more oversight and accountability from charter operators.
“We’re referring to the same politicians who call for ‘public school accountability’ by piling toxic tests on our students, yet seem to look the other way when it’s time to hold all charter schools responsible for their use of public funds,” said Eskelsen García, a Utah educator.
Meanwhile, despite all the issues surrounding charter schools, in the city of York, an appointee of Governor Tom Corbett who is charged with overseeing the city’s finances, has been linked to a controversial plan to turn every public school into a for-profit charter school. The proposal has sparked public protests involving students, educators, parents, and community leaders, who are all urging York school board members not to do it.
Protesters charge David Meckley is lobbying city school board members to adopt the controversial plan before the November elections. They say it’s because Corbett, who supports the corporate takeover of public education, is way down in the polls and not expected to win re-election.
“Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and other politicians in the state continue to push for privatization, despite compelling evidence of fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds in the charter school industry,” said Eskelsen García. “The CPD report and a recent Annenberg study call for more oversight of the charter schools. Students deserve protection from those fly-by-night charter school operators who are more focused on making money than ensuring that our students receive a quality education.”
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