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When the idea of charters was first floated in the late 1980s, advocates offered a simple promise: Give us autonomy, and we will be accountable.
That was then, this is now.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association estimates that public schools lose $1.3 billion each year to the state’s 177 charters. It filed a “Right to Know” request seeking information about how charters spend public money on such matters as salaries, consultants, advertising, rentals, etc.
A charter spokesman said the PSBA request was “frivolous.” Thus far, not a single charter has responded to the request for financial data.
“We get hammered over spending, but think about charter schools – there’s little if any fiscal accountability,” said Lawrence Feinberg, a Haverford School District board member who heads the Keystone State Education Coalition, a grassroots public education advocacy group made up of school board members and administrators.
“Feinberg cited the state’s largest charter school, the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County, which has a management contract with a firm headed by wealthy Montgomery County lawyer and political donor Vahan Gureghian.
“You go find out and tell me how much teachers get paid and how much Mr. Gureghian makes in profit,” said Feinberg. He also raised questions over how much charters spend on the ad campaigns that attract students away from traditional public schools.”
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