Lacking oversight, charter schools squandered $223 mil of your tax dollars

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by Brian Washington

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Remember when we told you that since 1994, 15 states reportedly lost more than $100 million of taxpayer money to charter-school waste, fraud, and abuse? That was back in 2014.

Since then the situation has gotten much worse, according to a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy. Instead of $100 million, that amount now stands at more than $223 million—once again, that’s more than $223 million in alleged and confirm cases of charter-school waste, fraud, and abuse.

A key element of the problem remains that charter-school funding and growth are outpacing oversight at all levels of government.

The rapid expansion of the charter sector in recent years is a particularly important factor in the fraud epidemic,” reads the report. “Local and state entities charged with oversight of charter schools are quickly becoming overwhelmed, yet the federal government continues to pour taxpayer dollars into this expansion project. Over the past 20 years, the federal Department of Education has channeled over $3 billion into states to increase the quantity of charter schools without requiring strong oversight systems.

Click on above image to see full report

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General echoed similar concerns regarding charter-school funding and oversight. However, none of this appears to be slowing down President Trump and his new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, whose only qualification for her new post is that she gave lots of money to politicians who support the corporate takeover of public education.

“As a staunch advocate for charter schools in Michigan (her home state), DeVos has spent millions in campaign donations supporting state candidates who favored ‘school choice’ and opposed increased oversight and regulation,” states the report. “The result of Michigan’s experiment in charters has been a system of failing schools run by for-profit companies, and millions of dollars lost in fraud and waste.”

As most of you know, charter schools are publicly funded schools that are managed privately, in many cases, by for-profit companies. Under the Trump-DeVos education agenda, federal funding for charter schools would jump from $333 million this year to $501 million in 2018.

According to the report, when you look at all the money being spent on charter schools at the local, state, and federal levels, it totals about $40 billion annually. And without proper oversight, taxpayers this year reportedly stand to lose about $2.1 billion.

Policymakers can stem the tide of public funding being lost on charter waste, fraud, and abuse. The report’s recommendations include the following reforms:

  • Required audits to detect fraud and increase transparency and accountability among charter-school operators and managers;
  • Clear, planning-based public investment programs that link equity, transparency, and accountability to charter-school expansion; and
  • Increased transparency and accountability to ensure that charter schools provide necessary information to state agencies to detect and prevent fraud.

Without the necessary oversight for charter schools, the report’s authors conclude that taxpayers will be subject to more of their dollars—hundreds of millions of dollars—being lost to charter-school fraud, waste, and abuse.

Reader Comments

    1. The issue here is that there is no oversight of charter schools. Public schools have publicly accountable school boards and the voters get to choose them. They okay budgets that the people who elect them then fund and also make sure that schools are complying with state and federal standards. If there is no public oversight taxpayers are paying for something they have neither approved nor have the ability to hold to high standards.

  1. Does that really make that much sense? Consider, (put the religious schools aside for a minute – that is NOT where the majority of funds would go!)

    Has anyone considered the money going to PUBLIC schools???? Just that alone should draw your attention to the fallacy of your argument! Did you know that it takes “only that much money to run 250 million schools????”!
    Another sad political tactic to spin one’s agenda! …sorry NEA, that one you just might have to own that one unless you can finish the research/article.

    If a charter school can educate a child for less than the public system. Doesn’t that leave a bigger piece of the pie in state coffers for the public schools???
    …and that is not to mention the benefits that many of those kids leave the public sector….. FOR A REASON. Like it or lump it, some kids need other than a general ed classroom. Case in point … ever hear of “special ed” or “resource teachers”???

    school choice

    I know, I know. Foul language.
    But consider, tell me this; if am I off my rocker…
    What is the difference between a *special ed program,* *gifted,* *remedial* programs, or even *trade schools*??? Don’t they ALL cater to a specific population for a very specific purpose? Are there not specific schools better equipped for EACH specific need??

    And if students succeed better elsewhere (i.e. a pull out program, charter, or private school), isn’t that more important? Or is the NEA keeping maximum membership funds the ideal???

    Maybe we should all watch a great movie that speaks to this EXACT problem… “Waiting for Superman”??? you NEED to watch it, first as an EDUCATOR, second as a member of the NEA!

    Something else to consider…
    The public school system was certainly not good enough for obama’s kids! Why?

    I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts **especially** if you have seen the movie (which is on Netflix) “Waiting for Superman”!!!

      1. Duhhhhh, ughhhhhh, ok.
        So I no have much of an “edge-a-am-cation”?!?!

        Is that the best retort you have to offer?

        Please “school me” and tell me the fallacies in my (lack of) understanding.
        Otherwise, You’d have to forfeit in any debate with such a response.

      2. Duhhhhh, ughhhhhh, ok.
        So I no have much of an “edge-a-am-cation”?!?!

        Is that the best/only retort you have to offer?

        Please “school me” and tell me the fallacies in my (lack of) understanding.
        Otherwise, You’d have to forfeit in any debate with such a response.

    1. Mr. Washington does not state that all children must be in the same classroom or that special programs should not exist. The premise is the lack of oversight. Are charter schools and district schools held to the same scrutiny, requirements, and standards? This is the issue raised.
      As for your favorite movie, fact checking is always important when dealing with “documentaries.” Lemmings do not really follow each other off cliffs. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2010/11/11/myth-charter-schools/ and http://www.mlive.com/opinion/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2010/10/waiting_for_superman_powerful.html are just a couple of sites. Even Huffington Post found the data to be questionable.

  2. Why do parents send their kids to private school (including public school teachers)? With many failing public schools their kids only get one go around.

  3. Is anyone really that surprised that two people who value nothing over money and power would give free taxpayer dollars to their friends. That is what they are doing, taking money from children, to get rich and to get their friends rich.
    SAD

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