Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Corruption And Fraud

Never let it be said that I don't acknowledge that there are lots of crappy charter schools out there, some even run by crooks who are stealing money (though I have no reason to believe that charter schools are more likely to be lousy or crooked than comparable public schools).  This story by NPR, and the reporting by this reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, highlights the need for strong charter laws to make it hard to get a charter, provide for careful oversight, and streamline the process for closing bad charter schools – hmmm, come to think of it, why don't we do this for ALL public schools???

On Monday's Fresh Air, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Martha Woodall details her ongoing investigation into Philadelphia's charter school system, where 19 of the 74 charter schools operating in the city are under investigation for fraud, financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

More By Martha Woodall

Read Martha Woodall's Charter Schools Series In The Philadelphia Inquirer

Corruption And Fraud

At one school, the Philadelphia Academy Charter School, parents raised concerns in 2008 after school administrators told them that there was no money available for special education students.

"The school kept saying 'We don't have money [for these students],' " Woodall tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "However, there was money being spent on all kinds of other issues. [When parents] raised questions at the Board of Trustees meetings, [they] were basically told, 'We don't want you asking questions.' "

Ultimately, both the founding CEO of Philadelphia Academy Charter School and his successor were charged with stealing almost $1 million from the school's coffers, including money students had collected for a Toys for Tots campaign. The two men — one of whom had only a high school education — also allegedly engaged in questionable real estate deals. As a result, the high school paid rent money for its facilities directly to them.

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