by Brian Washington
Take Action ›
Tell lawmakers it’s time for tougher standards and more oversight and accountability for charter schools. Click here ›
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).
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.