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May 14, 2015

New Report: Charter Schools Rife with Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) released a report this week that should give serious pause to any state or city that's considering expanding their charter school programs. The report found $200 million of taxpayer funds has been used fraudulently or wasted by charter schools in 15 states, and because there is so little oversight of these schools, the number is likely even higher. Such rampant waste, fraud, and mismanagement clearly demonstrates that at the very least, charter schools need to be held accountable for their use of public funds.

The report discusses the numerous types of fraudulent or wasteful behavior they discovered. They found cases of charter school operators using school funds for personal gain, operators using funds to support their other businesses, charter schools lying about enrollment numbers to acquire more state funds, and lying about the services they provided. Beside these more egregious acts, some charter school operators simply couldn't manage their schools effectively. As states currently don't require these operators to have any significant background in education or non-profit management, the operators can control schools without any of the experience necessary to do so productively.

The report also includes suggestions for the vital steps necessary to prevent these types of corruption. They suggest:

Mandating audits designed to detect and prevent fraud

Developing clear planning-based investments

Increasing transparency and accountability, including making charter schools subject to the same standards and provisions the state applies to traditional public schools

From the press release:
“We will continue to have a charter school fraud problem until we address the root cause – the broken oversight systems that exist on a federal and state level,” said Kyle Serrette, the Director of Education for CPD. “Certainly not all charter school operators are fraudulent, but our system is not good at differentiating the sheep from the wolves in sheep’s clothing. That’s a problem, given the fact that taxpayers around the country are collectively spending over $20 billion a year on charter schools. Charter school parents, children, and taxpayers deserve better.”

You can find the full report here, and The Washington Post's coverage of it here.

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