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Charter Regulation MIA

February 24, 2015

Last week ProPublica blogger Marian Wang posted an essay on Truthdig with the provocative title “When a Wildlife Rehab Center Regulates Charter Schools: Inside the Wild World of Charter Regulation”. The article described the convoluted accountability models used to “regulate” charter schools in MN, MI, IN, PA, and OH, models that allow nonprofit institutions like the Audubon Center of the North Woods to become the largest charter school overseer in Minnesota— responsible for 32 schools! The article cites examples of the consequences of lax oversight, ranging from ‘lavish executive salaries (and) conflicts of interest” in Philadelphia charters, the “considerable loss of State funds” in OH, and widespread miseducation in ALL states where oversight was lax. While it is hard to single out any one State’s flaws, I found the example of Indiana charters “shopping” for the most permissive regulators the most troubling. The idea that a school can seek out the regulatory body is analogous to the idea that a bank can shop for an auditor who will give them a favorable rating… and we’ve seen how that form of “self-regulation” worked out in the banking industry.

After reading the article I came away more convinced than ever that every state needs a robust Department of Education with sufficient staff to oversee not only public schools but also charter schools that use public funds…. and also came away more convinced than ever that the State legislatures’ decisions to de-fund State Departments has de-clawed their ability to regulate and the majority of legislatures want it that way.

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