by David Safier
Since The Republic's Anne Ryman stirred the charter school purchasing pot with her story, Charter purchasing practices under scrutiny, more stories about people using charter schools' purchasing power as
a piggy bank for themselves and their friends have surfaced. I posted
yesterday about the incestuous financial relationships between Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and the people it gives money to. And Tim Noah of the New Republic used Ryman's article as a starting point for his piece, How Charter Schools Fleece Taxpayers. One of the abuses Noah mentioned brought back memories of a story I wrote 4 years ago about the worst charter school abuse I had heard of. It turns out the bad penny from that story, C. Steven Cox, just turned up again in San Bernardino.
A brief recap of my 4-year-old story. C. Steven Cox bilked California out of millions of dollars by setting up
a bunch of companies that sold supplies and services to his 60 charter
schools at inflated prices. The schools were shut down in 2004. In 2007,
Cox was indicted on 112 felony counts. (Jaw-dropping side note. After
the California schools closed, Cox kept one charter school running in
Arizona. In 2005, a 15 year old girl complained to the principal that
her teacher was touching her inappropriately. The principal — who was
the teacher's mother — called the student a liar until two other girls
went to the police with similar complaints. The teacher skipped town,
but his mother stayed on as principal until the school closed in 2008.)
Cox is back in the news with a recent article about charter school corruption in the San Bernardino Sentinel. Cox was linked to Adelanto Charter Academy which was closed because of an "overwhelming number of operational, fiscal and programmatic issues." Cox apparently drafted the school's articles of incorporation and worked with the charter behind the scenes.
The school's operators are quite the rogue's gallery. One of the main people, Bill Postmus, worked with Cox's earlier failed schools. Most recently, he was arrested on drug charges and "reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, entering guilty pleas to having a conflict of interest, conspiring to accept a bribe, and misappropriating public funds." One of Postmus' business partners, Dino DeFazio "is currently facing criminal charges for perjury for his testimony before the San Bernardino County Grand Jury." The Boys and Girls Club of Victor Valley is part of the whole mess. The list goes on.
Something is rotten in the state of charter schools, in this state and
across the country. Since it looks like charters are going to be around
for awhile, we owe it to taxpayers and to the children who attend the
schools to create sufficient regulation and oversight that we can weed
out the worst offenders.