Federal funding of charter schools needs more oversight, accountability


by Brian Washington

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New information is underscoring the need for more oversight and accountability for the charter schools our children attend.

After conducting a financial analysis of thousands of pages of documents, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) claims that, within the last 20 years, the federal government has spent $3.3 billion on charter schools but cannot account for which charters got taxpayer money or how those public dollars were spent.

Since 1995, federal funding to launch charter schools has ballooned from $4.5 million to more than $235 million.

“Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to ‘authorize’ charters that receive federal funds,” reads a press release from CMD announcing the organization’s new findings.

However, this lack of accountability has not slowed down Washington’s desire to put more money into charters. CMD states that the feds are expected to increase charter school funding by 48% in FY 2016. According to Juan Gonzalez, who writes for the New York Daily News — which just published a piece on CMD’s analysis — that’s about $375 million.

“And that’s on top of billions of dollars state governments spend for charter school operations,” writes Gonzalez. “Yet the new (CMD) report concludes there is ‘no systemic public accounting for how the federal budget allocated to charters is actually being spent,’ and ‘major gaps in the law allow waste and fraud.’”

The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) has been documenting what it calls waste, fraud, and abuse connected to charter schools at the national and state levels. Earlier this week, CPD released its own findings alleging that waste and mismanagement connected to charter schools nationwide could be slightly above $200 million. CPD has released similar reports at the state level as well in California ($81 million), Illinois ($27 million), New York ($54 million), and Pennsylvania ($30 million).

CPD National Report Meme (2)
Share this graphic via facebook. Share this graphic via Twitter. Read CPD’s entire report.

Those who favor more oversight and accountability for charters believe they should be held to the same standards as public schools to make sure students get the most out of their educational experience and to protect taxpayers’ investment.

The Annenberg Institute for Reform at Brown University has put out its own set of standards to bolster oversight for charters. Those standards are generating buzz across the nation, including in Nashville, Tenn., where the school board has just adopted a resolution promoting the standards.

Meanwhile, a recent national poll indicates that voters overwhelmingly favor measures addressing fraud, mismanagement, and poor student performance connected to charter schools.

Reader Comments

  1. The Obama Admin supports charter schools. Members of both parties support the privitization of public education.

    Campaign contributions from hedge fund education managers, the billionaires’s club, and the lobbyists that represent them.

    Wake-up! Demand that your rep and senator support PUBLIC education and not Choice in Education…hold all public officials accountable. We need a grassroots effort to wipe out the cancer that is destroying the American dream,a well funded public education for all.

  2. I don’t understand why any school that can turn away students because of behavior or disabilities can receive federal or state money. Charter schools can do both. They try to include only the best behaved children who are most likely to learn, and they hope, test well. Given that hand-picked clientele that they still only have average test scores tells us something. Add to that the fact that around here they encourage students who are failing to leave the charter and enroll in public school just before the testing window to further elevate the test scores. What we are creating is a system where children with disabilities, even mild ones, and children with behavioral issues are seriously over represented in public schools. Then we knock the public schools and teachers for poor test performance.

  3. Don’t you get it … They are getting paid to open charter schools. Who am I talking about…. Who is supporting the charter schools….. Not to difficult to figure out. They don’t have to be accountable. The wealthy do whatever they want. I have decided that they should just look at the working class and say” Shut up and live with it !” That would be more honest. No one likes phony people.

  4. The world’s top school sys pays their teachers $45,000 to $91,000 and it also costs their sys. annually $1,000 per student LESS!!!!!!

    IN 1960’S WE WERE tops in world’s schools rankings!…now we r 30 something in MATH & SCIENCE knowledge levels and now in the teens in READING knowledge levels. You say WHAT?? IN TH GOOD OLE USA??!!

    …Need to be autonomous here? Maybe not, but kids don’t WANT to even GO to schools where they are harassed and bullied and principal, teachers/ALL STAFF, vacation station, cafeteria, janitors=that is correct, ALL STAFF SHOULD, but TYPICALLY cannot promote / immediately DIFFUSE BULLYING situations! FOLLOW THRU! It ALL starts AT THE TOP whether nationally or locally.

    1. The US has never been at the top of international standards which are based on standarized tests, not even in the 1960’s, yet during that time we’ve lead the world economically and in R&D. Studies say the one reason why our overall tests are mediocre, or worse, is due to our high rate of wealth and income inequality. Poorer districts with fewer resources and supports bring the test average down. As far as bulling goes, that can happen anywhere.

  5. I have yet to understand why the hell Charter Schools receive any federal or state money whatsoever.

    1. Whatever happened to teacher input? If those in Washington would actually visit public schools, they would be able to see the great things that are happening. They would also be able to see the high anxiety that high stakes testing has produced on these children. Give the money to the public schools so that teachers don’t have to purchase their own white out, tape, printers, ink/toner, etc.

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