This Just In: Charter Schools Waste Money, Fall Short of Standards, Fail to Educate
The week’s US News and World Report reports on a recently released audit from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that found that 2/3 of the charter schools they examined in a random study wasted money, failed to meet standards, and failed children. Lauren Camera writes:
Specifically, the report found instances of financial risk, including waste, fraud and abuse, lack of accountability over federal funds and lack of assurances that the schools were implementing federal programs in accordance with federal requirements at 22 of the 33 schools they looked at, all of which were run by management organizations.
Why did this happen? Clearly one problem is the underfunding of regulators in the USDOE. But another problem may be that the USDOE is not all that interested in enforcing the regulations as they apply to the profiteers who operate these cash machines that ultimately help underwrite political campaigns that get their Secretary appointed.
Deregulated for-profit charter schools nevertheless continue to receive federal funds.
The report comes just a week after the Education Department announced its newest round of federal funding – $245 million in total – for the expansion of charter schools under the federal charter school program. The funding goes directly to state education departments and charter management organizations.
“We take seriously any concerns about the stewardship of federal funds, especially those targeted to disadvantaged students and underserved communities,” a spokeswoman for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said in a statement in response to the report. “Financial mismanagement should not be tolerated in district or charter public schools.”
The “spokeswoman” then repeated studies that show charter schools make a positive difference for children and the US News and World Report, a reliable cheerleader for charters, offered this:
Indeed, the oft-cited study from Stanford University’s Center for Research and Education Outcomes found that students who attend schools overseen by charter management organizations that were funded by the federal Charter School Growth Fund experience gains in math and reading that trump those of students enrolled in district public schools.
But in the end, the legislators and advocates need to face the fact that deregulation and/or self-regulation leads to the kinds of outcomes the OIG found in its audits. I doubt that either candidate running for President will do anything to slow the growth of charters, but I hope that in their purported efforts to root out waste fraud and abuse they will make certain this is never written about the USDOE in the future:
Moreover, the inspector general’s report found that the Education Department did not have effective internal controls to monitor, evaluate and mitigate those risks, nor did it ensure that state departments of education were overseeing charter schools and their management organizations.
If more or better personnel are needed to establish effective internal controls and oversee State Departments of Education then funds need to be provided for those functions… because if they aren’t more and more taxpayer money will be wasted and fewer and fewer children will have an equitable opportunity to learn.