Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Charter-School Scam: Ripping off the Taxpayers

with one comment

Marian Wang writes at Pacific Standard:

A couple of years ago, auditors looked at the books of a charter school in Buffalo, New York, and were taken aback by what they found. Like all charter schools, Buffalo United Charter School is funded with taxpayer dollars. The school is also a non-profit. But as the New York State auditors wrote, Buffalo United was sending “virtually all of the School’s revenues” directly to a for-profit company hired to handle its day-to-day operations.

Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances.

In the case of Buffalo United, the auditors found that the school board had little idea about exactly how the company—a large management firm called National Heritage Academies—was spending the school’s money. The school’s board still had to approve overall budgets, but it appeared to accept the company’s numbers with few questions. The sign-off was “essentially meaningless,” the auditors wrote.

In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a “sweeps” contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars—anywhere from 95 to 100 percent—is “swept” into a charter-management company.

The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits.

“It’s really just a pass-through for for-profit entities,” said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs who specializes in work with charter schools and has come across many sweeps contracts. “In what sense is that a non-profit endeavor? It’s not.”

National Heritage Academies spokeswoman Jennifer Hoff said in an emailed statement, “Our approach relieves our partner boards of all financial, operational, and academic risks—a significant burden that ultimately defeats many charter schools. Freed from burdens like fundraising, our partner boards can focus on governance and oversight…. NHA and its partner schools comply fully with state and federal laws, authorizer oversight requirements, and education department regulations—including everything related to transparency.”

While relationships between charter schools and management companies have started to come under scrutiny, sweeps contracts have received little attention. Schools have agreed to such set-ups with both non-profit and for-profit management companies, but it’s not clear how often. Nobody appears to be keeping track.

What is clear is that it can be hard for regulators and even schools themselves to follow the money when nearly all of it goes into the accounts of a private company. [And that’s the idea, of course. It’s a scam. – LG] . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2014 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Business, Education

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.

    prayerwarriorpsychicnot

    16 December 2014 at 5:52 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.