Charter Schools Draw Attention Anew as More States Grapple with Cases of Public Fund Embezzlement

Charter schools have been drawing attention for years not because they have gained popularity as a better alternative to traditional public schools. Supported by federal educational funds, whilst exempt from certain regulations governing traditional private and public schools, a number of charter schools located in different states have been found culpable for having embezzled the funds provided by the government.

According to a recent study conducted by the National Education Policy Center, more than 430,000 students are reported to have enrolled nationwide in charter schools. A total of 501 operate as virtual schools, while 300 offer a mix of virtual teaching and traditional in-classroom time, usually for lower grade levels, The study also showed that out of those numbers, charter schools operated by for-profit entities, account for four times more than those operated by districts and non-profit organizations.

In terms of performance, the study also revealed that students enrolled in district-operated virtual schools have shown far better accomplishments than students taking up studies with charter-operated virtual learning sites. In light of such findings, the study concluded with a recommendation for states to slow down, if not put a stop to the proliferation of virtual charter schools in their region. The study also recommended for the abatement of student-to-teacher ratio, as well as impose sanctions on schools that show poor performance.

However, Greg Richmond, CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers contend that the public school education laws in the U.S. do not apply to students attending Internet-based classes conducted by virtual schools. He cites that most states do not have clear legislations for governing charter-operated virtual schools. Add to that problem the understaffing issues faced by oversight agencies, as well as confusion over who enforces enrollment and attendance policies over virtual charter schools.

CEO Richmond expounded that under all those conditions, individuals with ill-intentions can use them to their advantage, which is exactly what has been happening in several states. .

States in Which Charter Schools Were Found Culpable for Public Fund Embezzlement

In California, state prosecutors recently indicted 11 operators and employees of a charter school management company called A3 Education, who was supposed to be running a series of virtual charter schools. Multiple criminal charges were filed against the individuals for allegedly stealing more than $50 million in government funds by enrolling students in non-existent virtual charter schools.

In 2016, an Internet-based charter school operated by a Virginia-registered, for-profit company called K12, Inc expanded their online virtual school in California. Inc.However, state investigators found the company and its affiliates liable for misrepresentations, and running false advertisements that led to unfair competition. The company agreed to pay a $168.5 million settlement to avoid state prosecution.

In 2018, the largest online charter in Ohio, shut down in imd-school year after being questioned over public funds and student attendance. The Ohio attorney general sued the founder and other officials of the charter school in order to recover millions of dollars of government funds received by the charter organization.

A similar case of inflated enrollment numbers was exposed by the state auditors of Indiana in two online schoolS, who have purportedly received about $40 million as government funding. A similar case has been unraveled by state investigators of Oklahoma, to which investigations have been ongoing for years.

The Epic Virtual Charter Schools in Oklahoma, founded and operated by two tech-savvy Oklahomans who also runs a for-profit company that manage and recruit enrollees for Epic Schools. The two receive a 10% commission on every recruit, which state investigators later found out as ghost enrollees.

Silvija Topić

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