This week is National Charter School Week, but a disturbing new report reveals how some charter schools are taking advantage of a poorly regulated educational business. Besides other troubling issues surrounding charter schools, such as poor overall performance, racial segregation and expulsion practices, this report reveals issues that are outright criminal and out of control.
Co-Authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, it focuses on fifteen states out of forty-two who have represented charter schools. It details waste, fraud and abuse but the document narrowed in on the largest issue—the insufficient regulation of charter schools.
“We expected to find a fair amount of fraud when we began this project, but we did not expect to find over $100 million in taxpayer dollars lost,” said Kyle Serrette, the director of education justice at the Center for Popular Democracy. “That’s just in 15 states. And that figure fails to capture the real harm to children. Clearly, we should hit the pause button on charter expansion until there is a better oversight system in place to protect our children and our communities.”
The report detailed six basic categories:
- Charter operators using public funds illegally for personal gain;
- School revenue used to illegally support other charter operator businesses;
- Mismanagement that puts children in actual or potential danger;
- Charters illegally requesting public dollars for services not provided;
- Charter operators illegally inflating enrollment to boost revenues; and,
- Charter operators mismanaging public funds and schools.
A specific example of abuse, is that of Joel Pourier, former CEO of Oh Day Aki Heaert Charter School in Minnesota. He embezzled $1.38 million and used the money to purchase cars, houses and trips to strip clubs. All this while his school suffered from basic supplies such as textbooks and computers.
The report offers many solutions and proposals, the chief being that all states establish an over sight committee. That it “should have the statutory responsibility, authority, and resources to investigate fraud, waste, mismanagement and misconduct.”
What do you feel would be other ways to stop corruption with charter schools?