Changes in charter school procurement policies?

by David Safier

Good reporting can get results. Or it can get people in power to make noise and set up study groups waiting for the fuss to die down.

The good reporting, in this case, is Anne Ryman's excellent, in depth article, Insiders benefiting in charter deals, which has received national attention. Ryman detailed how more than $70 million has been spent over the past 5 years by Arizona charter schools at companies run by board members, school executives or relatives. The charters have received exemptions that allow them to make purchases without competitive bidding.

Ryman has a follow-up article which says Arizona's State Charter School Board is looking into changing procurement policies for charters.

State charter-board officials announced last week that they will hold a study session on procurement in January.

Last week, four charter schools were scheduled to receive procurement exemptions at the board's regularly scheduled meeting, but the board postponed the vote in light of the controversies over exemptions. The schools requesting exemptions were Maryvale Preparatory Academy, Archway Classical Academy North Phoenix, La Tierra Community School, and North Phoenix Preparatory Academy.

And the private Arizona Charter Schools Association "asked its member schools for suggested changes regarding procurement."

We've been through this movie before. For example, when a series of articles blasted Arizona's tuition tax credit system, the Lege held hearings looking into the matter, but instead of reforming the abuses, it extended the date when people can give the tax credit donations from December 31 to April 15. Time will tell if the Charter School Board puts teeth in the procurement process or just mumbles a few toothless warnings and continues with business as usual.

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