Carl J. Petersen: California Legislature Puts Profits Over Students
Carl Peterson is a parent and advocate for students with special needs. He keeps an eye on education reform in California. In this recent post, he discusses how the state legislature has passed up a chance to close up one of the proven gaping holes in charter law.
When San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan indicted 11 people associated with the A3 Education for running a “criminal enterprise [that] funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into private bank accounts”, he exposed gaping holes in the laws controlling the oversight of publicly funded charter schools. As detailed in a letter he sent to the California State Assembly’s education committee, this left the government vulnerable to fraud in the following ways:
- “The State does not monitor the money that goes for each student’s education.
- Government regulators rely on auditors to confirm the accuracy of attendance and expenditures at all public schools, but for charter schools, the auditors work in an at-will capacity and lack the tools, knowledge, and authority to find fraud if it is occurring.
- Government regulators do not monitor individual student attendance at charter schools and are currently paying out more than one ADA [Average Daily Attendance, the mechanism by which California schools are funded] per student in many cases without knowing they are doing so.
- The CDE (California Department of Education) has no authority to investigate potential fraud and needs the ability to do so. Only a rare DA’s office has the resources to do so.”
As proposed, AB1316 would have addressed many of these issues and protected California students from having their scarce education dollars stolen by unseemly charter school operators. Its provisions would have created an Inspector General in the Department of Education and “new auditing and accounting standards to create parity between school districts and charter schools.“ Non-classroom-based charter schools would have had their funding formulas adjusted to reflect that these schools do not have the real estate costs that are incurred by charter and public schools that teach in-person classes. Charter schools would no longer have been able to shop around for school districts that provided the least amount of oversight as they would have been forced to obtain authorization in the districts where they were operating. Students enrolled in independent study programs would have received more teacher contact.
Peterson goes on to tell us what happened to AB1316 (spoiler alert: nothing good). Read the entire piece here.