by David Safier
Flagstaff's Daily Sun is the latest paper to pick up the story about Arizona's lax procurement policies which allow charter schools to get exemptions from the required competitive bidding process for contracts over $5,000. About 90% of charters have requested and received the exemptions, leading to, according to the original article in the Republic, over $70 million in no-bid deals over the past five years. The heads of charter schools claim the exemptions allow them to get better deals.
DeAnna Rowe, the executive director of the state's Charter School Board, promises to look into the procurement procedures to help the board members determine "whether they need to make any adjustments or whether what we're doing is right on." Unfortunately, Rowe and the Board tend to be cheerleaders for the charter school movement rather than keeping careful watch over the practices of schools they are supposed to be monitoring and regulating.
I have a suggestion. Don't just take a theoretical look at the practice of no-bid contracts. Do some research. Pull together a large sampling of the $70 million-plus purchasing deals and see whether the charters could have gotten better deals elsewhere on the open market. If companies run by charter school board members, executives and their friends and relations can somehow undercut the prices offered elsewhere, that's great. But the history of sweetheart deals with charters is littered with corruption and profiteering. We taxpayers who are footing the charter school bill deserve some answers.