Tag: Charter Schools

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.

Charter Schools : Are They Really Serving Their True Purpose?

Charter schools are being opposed on all sides, with the leading 2020 Democratic presidential aspirants aligning their plans with the views of those against charter schools. Senator Bernie Sanders vows to ban all for-profit charter schools if he gets elected. Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes a promise to name a public school teacher as the head of future Department of Education.

Other Democratic hopefuls are less aggressive in their stance but are currently voicing commitment in upholding traditional public schools. Most promises focus on giving public school teachers higher pays and dramatically increasing funding for poor students.

Opposition to charter schools is also coming from local and state officials across the country. Operators looking to expand their charter operations in Midland, Texas and Pender County, North Carolina, as well as in other locations, have withdrawn their applications as a result of community protests. In Chicago, the new mayor has pledged to suspend action on applications for new charter schools.

In light of the 7-day teachers’ strike that took place in Oakland, Los Angeles and Sacramento early this year, California’s Department of Education included in its report a recommendation to impose restrictions on charter schools.

The rising state-level movements against charter schools, has in fact influenced federal lawmakers, particularly Democratic Congressional members. Congress is citing lack of oversight in the use of the $440 million federal funding for the charter school program, posing as sources of the millions of dollars being raked in by operators of said schools.

About Charter Schools in the U.S.

The state of Minnesota was the first to pass state laws recognizing the legality of charter schools. Back in 1991, the concept of charter schools was founded on the premise of establishing a new kind of educational institution where innovations on learning methodologies can be tested. If charter initiatives are proven efficient and effective, traditional public schools can replicate such innovations as a way of improving the outputs of low-performing school districts.

Run autonomously by founding operators, approved charter institutions in different school districts, can hold longer school days or number of years than those observed by traditional public schools. As part of a charter’s experimental nature, a school can introduce new curriculum, employ a dual-language program or any other teaching program that deviates from conventional educational arrangements.

Strong Arguments about Charter Schools

Those in favor of charter schools contend that their educational institution provides an alternative learning environment, as opposed to trapping students in a non-performing school within a district. They are calling attention to charter school data that show exceptionally high rates of college enrollment and graduation achievements by their students.

Those against, accuse charter schools of siphoning government money that can find better use in traditional public schools. Accusations include culling of brightest students with the most involved parents, as a means of artificially creating impressions of high level performance in terms of student achievement
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What are Charter Schools and Why the House Appropriations Committee Proposed a Lower Budget for the Program

Charter schools are educational institutions similar to public schools because they receive government funding, and therefore do not charge tuition fees from students. Yet unlike public schools that offer free education from kindergarten level through Grade 12, charter schools offer only primary and/or secondary education.

Moreover, charter schools may be founded by a for-profit organization or by a non-profit organization composed by a group of teachers or parents, or in some cases, a group of activists. That being the case, charter schools operate in accordance within the bounds of a charter or written contract entered into with the body that approved its operation. The approving body may be the state or district in which it operates, or by the authorizing entity or sponsor.

The operation and administration of a charter school therefore are governed by the charter, a condition that may exempt the educational institution from several government laws and regulations imposed on public schools. Still, charter schools are subject to periodic review and assessment by their respective authorizer. In case a charter school continuously fails to meet the standards specified by its charter, authorization of its operation is revoked, giving reason for the closure of the institution.

Although charter schools have grown in popularity, they are currently being criticized for having loose regulations with regard to public accountability and implementation of labor laws. Oppositions to charter school operations arise mostly from state education agencies, unions or local boards, as not a few public school systems are now airing complaints about losing substantial amounts of funding to charters.

House Appropriations Committee Proposes Reduced 2020 Budget for Charter Schools

Recently, the most critical backlash is being directed against the U.S. Education Department. The Inspector General’s 2018 review of the USED drew focus on the department’s oversight of the Charter Schools Program, a matter that has been reported since 2016. Up to the present, the Inspector General reported that the department has ignored recommendations for improvement regarding the Charter School oversight issue.

In light of the matter raised by the USED Inspector General, the House Appropriations Committe has reduced the 2020 budget appropriation for Charter Schools by $40 million. The committee’s reason for the sharp cut is that

“The Education Department has not acted as responsible steward of taxpayer dollars used to help the charter movement.”