Oregon charter school operators bilk state

by David Safier

Oregon is demanding two charter school operators repay $17 million they received from the state to run their chain of schools. Some of the money was spent legitimately, but there was enough fraud and misallocation of money, the state is saying it was all obtained under false pretenses. Most of the money is long gone, of course. The state will never see it again.

This story has special interest to me, because one of the two operators, Tim King, used to teach at a high school in the district where I taught, and he began his career of charter crime when he started three charters for the district.

What's amazing here is, King was caught with his hands in the till when he ran the district's schools and had to repay $400,000, yet he joined up with another shady character and kept on running schools for other districts. Some of the schools just closed in the middle of the year leaving the students in the lurch, and others kept changing names. But they kept running their scam for years. King should never have been allowed near a school again, but, just like happens in Arizona, he and his partner slipped through the cracks due to lax oversight.

This is a cautionary tale. Similar charter scams have been run around the country, and no doubt there are a number of crooks plying their deceptive trade right now in Arizona and elsewhere. If we're going to have charter schools — and it looks like they're going to be around for a long time — we should make every effort to make sure the operators are thinking about the quality of their students' educations, not the amount of money they can squirrel away for their own benefit.

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