NC charter schools highlighted in report on fraud and waste
Via Salon, we have a link to a new report co-authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education that examines the lack of oversight of charter schools. The report looked at just 15 states, pulling news stories, criminal complaints, audits, and other sources.
The report "found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers" and noted that, due to lack of oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.”
Three NC charter schools are highlighted in the report:
On January 9, 2014, the North Carolina Board of Education approved the Roger Bacon Academy’s application to open a third charter school, despite evidence that the Academy’s two existing schools were the subject of an open investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Edward Pruden, who has argued against approval for the third school, forwarded a letter from the US DOE confirming that an investigation was ongoing and denying his request for details about its focus. Pruden said that based on information received by his office, the investigation concerns attempts to improperly recruit students in order to boost enrollment records and state funding at one of Roger Bacon’s campuses, Charter Day School. Roger Bacon Academy head Baker Mitchell has denied knowledge of any ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼investigation. Pruden and others have raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest in Mitchell’s position on the state Charter School Advisory Board, though the Board of Education has said his appointment to the board was legal.
StudentFirst Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina closed in early April 2014 after dwindling enrollment and poor management created severe financial stress. The school, in its first year of operation, surrendered its charter. By March of this year, the school’s board had over $600,000 in overdue bills and bank loans. A team of investigators from the state Office of Charter Schools provided help and support to the board, but expressed concerns over a range of issues including the quality of instruction and support for students with disabilities.
Before the North Carolina State Board of Education could act to close it, the Kinston Charter Academy in Lenoir County shut itself down just a week in to the 2013-2014 school year. The sudden closure left the families of 230 students in limbo. But what the State found in the school’s books was disheartening: the school had only $3,000 in its accounts, despite having received more than $600,000 in public funding for the beginning of the school year. The funds had been used to pay of school debt, according to the school’s director, and there was no money remaining to cover the payroll. The school had been running at a deficit for several years.
Are these three the "tip of the iceberg" in North Carolina? What other problems would be exposed with proper oversight?
Perhaps someone should ask Thom Tillis - he gave the keynote address at a pr event held by the advocacy group NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools in July 2012.