Is anyone looking at charter school expenses?

by David Safier
One line in H.B. 2028/S.B, 1189, the bill that rolls over funding for schools, delaying $300 million in payments, caught my eye.

. . . the reduction does not apply to charter schools and small school districts that qualify for an exemption of the general budget limit.

No delayed payments to charter schools or very small school districts. There may be a good reason for that, I don't know. But it got me to thinking.

Someone is going to be digging around in school district accounts to see if they have more money than they should have, based on all kinds of rules and regulations. I imagine it's going to take some intense accounting to figure it all out, and some districts could be embarrassed by what comes out.

But no one is digging through charter school books. I've looked at the expense statements charters turn over to the state. There are only general categories, no specifics about how the money is spent. You could hide a whole lot of hanky panky in those numbers and no one would know. It seems at a time when we're looking to pinch every penny and make school districts accountable for any excess funds, we should be looking at how charters spend their money as well. It may be — as a matter of fact, it has been exposed in the past — that some charter owners find ways to skim money off the top, either through excessive salaries or through payments for services to companies owned by the same people who run the charters. Not all owners, of course. But some.

If financial accountability is good for the traditional school goose, I say, it should be good for the charter school gander as well.

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