Charter School Oversight Lacking, Report Says

May 18, 2014 10:42 pm Last Updated: May 18, 2014 10:42 pm

NEW YORK—Due to poor oversight charter schools lost over $100 million to waste, fraud, and abuse over the past 20 years, according to a report by two anti-charter non-profits.

The $100 million cited by the report is an aggregation of audit and prosecution results on local, state, and federal levels.

The Center for Popular Democracy, and Integrity in Education, are both relatively new organizations, formed in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Both have a track record of opposing charter schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. They operate under “charters” issued for five years that require them to measure up to goals the schools set, including academic goals.

The federal Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) stated in 2010 that local agencies issuing the charters “often fail to provide adequate oversight needed to ensure that Federal funds are properly used and accounted for.”

There are three such agencies in New York State: State University of New York, Board of Regents, and the New York City Department of Education. None of them responded to an immediate request for comment.

Between January 2005 and September 2013 the OIG opened 62 charter school investigations, resulting in 40 indictments and 26 convictions of charter school officials.

New York did relatively well. The report cites only two cases of fraud or mismanagement. One dealt with the East New York Preparatory Charter School in Brooklyn. It was ordered to close in 2010 after revelations that the school’s founder named herself a superintendent and gave herself a $60,000 raise.

Another school mentioned was the Niagara Charter School in Buffalo, where the State Education Department found “pervasive appearance of financial mismanagement and less-than ethical behavior,” including spending on plane tickets, restaurant meals, and alcohol, and over $100,000 spent on no-bid consulting contracts.

With the charter school sector growing, the report argues that charter-issuing organizations often lack the resources to do proper oversight. Just last year, over 600 charter schools opened across the nation. There are an estimated 6,400 charter schools enrolling over 2.5 million students, according to the report.