ID charter school failures underscore need to protect students, taxpayers

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by Brian Washington

We recently told you on Education Votes how the federal government has given your tax dollars — $30 million, to be exact — to public charter schools in Ohio that have either closed or never opened at all. And there’s no way to get the money back.

That story generated lots of discussion on social media with comments like the following:

“This is a crime against children!” — Lynn Francis, Stroudsburg, PA
“So wrong! This cheats everyone.”— Karen Stauffer, Owensboro, KY
“So, you can just take the money and run? Is there a criminal investigation?”— Earl Bloom, Maria Loma, CA
“For-profit schools steal tax dollars for (the) benefit of their Wall Street investors.” — Tom Welch, Green Valley, AZ

Now we are learning about other states where grant money from the federal government’s Charter School Program (CPS), intended to expand charters, has gone to schools that have shuttered.

For example, in Idaho, about 10 percent of a the $21.6 million in federal grants from CSP has been spent on charters that have failed and are no longer open.

Those schools include the following, as reported by Idaho Education News:

  • Southern Idaho Learning Center in Twin Falls, later renamed Wings Charter School, received $616,750 in federal grants. The school closed in 2014 due to low enrollment.
  • Garden City Charter School, later renamed DaVinci Charter School, received almost $600,000 but closed in 2013 due to financial problems.
  • After receiving a $408,000 federal grant, the OWL Charter Academy in Nampa, closed in 2011 — once again, due to financial troubles.
  • Idaho Leadership Academy in Pingree got $381,107, but closed in 2008, as the result of low enrollment and funding shortfalls.
  • Nampa Classical Charter School locked horns with state officials over its plan to use the Bible as a literary source and ultimately had its charter revoked by the state. The school received a grant totaling more than $320,000.

And although the Hidden Springs Charter school hasn’t officially closed. It is no longer a public charter school. The school was folded into the Boise School District following low enrollment and financial problems and is now a traditional public school. It received $320,592 from the federal government.

The grant totals come from the U.S. Department of Education’s new dataset, which it calls “A Commitment to Transparency,” and lists more than $1.8 billion in federal charter school grants. The grants were awarded between 2006 and the 2013-14 school year. Money from the CSP is supposed to be used to cover start-up expenses at these schools, including professional development, class materials, computers and furniture. It cannot be used to cover building expenses.

However, if a pubic charter that has received a federal grant closes, it does not have to pay the money back. Your tax dollars are just lost.

We should point out that Idaho is no longer receiving money from the feds for its charter schools. State education officials reportedly believe the application process has become too frustrating and cumbersome.

Education advocates say these charter school failures underscore the need for more transparency and accountability to protect our students and taxpayers’ investment.

Take Action Now: Protect our students and taxpayer dollars. Tell your lawmaker it’s time for tougher standards and more accountability for charter schools.

Reader Comments

  1. How can legislators justify no accountability for charter schools and extreme accountability measures for public schools when both receive tax payer dollars? There is no justification because it’s all political and an attempt to privatize education which will lead to indoctrination of children to corporate supporters idealology and propagating delusional ideas like climate change is not real or teaching creation over evolution. Legislators need to make both education models accountable using the same evaluation tools.

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