Header Image

CPD In the News

| Holding Charter Schools Accountable, Promoting Strong Public Schools

Charters Lack Sufficient Oversight

Philly.com - October 15, 2014, by Kia Hinton - Recently, charter schools have made headlines nationwide. This summer, the FBI raided charter schools in Connecticut, Arizona and Ohio. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform released a report on dramatic shortcomings of charter schools, saying "the lack of effective oversight means too many cases of fraud and abuse, too little attention to equity, and no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence."

Pennsylvania has seen its share of charter headlines as well. Earlier this month, ACTION United, the statewide organization I serve on the board of, released a report that uncovered no less than $30 million in fraud by Pennsylvania charter operators since the passage of the 1997 Charter School Act. Philadelphia, which now feeds $800 million a year into charter schools, has simultaneously starved the traditional public school system for years now. Students lack critical services because of the layoffs of nurses, librarians and counselors. Teachers are paying for supplies and even toilet paper out of their own pockets. And after a six year moratorium on charter expansion in Philadelphia, we learned our school district was required to accept a flood of new charter applications as part of the cigarette tax deal.

When I hear about fraudulent charter operators who steal tax dollars from Philadelphia's working families, it's personal.

My family has lived in Southwest Philadelphia for generations, in the same two-story house I grew up in. My youngest child attends Longstreth Elementary, my alma mater. Another of my children attends a Mastery Charter School. All of my children deserve a quality education.

Fraud, waste and mismanagement threaten my children's access to a quality education. Public money is being invested in a massive, fast-growing industry that fundamentally lacks meaningful oversight. Here in Philadelphia, we have just two auditors for 85 charter schools. That lack of oversight enabled people like the founders of Agora Cyber Charter and New Media Technical School to prop up their personal businesses with more than $7 million that was meant for Philadelphia's children.

For these reasons, ACTION United is calling for a statewide moratorium on new charter schools until all charter schools can assure us that they have appropriate fraud-prevention measures in place. We are asking the School Reform Commission to mandate fraud prevention in the charter application process. We are approaching all charter schools to ask them to take our fraud prevention pledge and commit to implementing a fraud risk management program at their nonprofit.

Politicians are making a lot of promises this election season, so here's something they should keep in mind: As long as we continue to lack local control over our own schools in Philadelphia, we expect the governor and the SRC to ensure precious school dollars are spent on our children - not lost to fraud.