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.
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.