Accountability California Deregulation Education Reform For-Profit Fraud Virtual Charter Schools

Tom Ultican: How Charter Operators Scammed $50 Million (or More) from California

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Tom Ultican writes here about the biggest charter fraud in history (to this date). 

This fraud was not one of those one-day wonders that people read about and forget the next day.

This one should wake up state legislators and produce genuine reforms of the state’s super-permissive charter law.

Ultican writes about the indictment of 11 people for the theft of $50 million. Other writers, however, peg the loss to the state and its students at $80 million.

Whether it’s $50 million or $80 million, it should catch the attention of those who are devoted to ethical behavior.

Ultican explains that charter advocates designed the law so that it would NOT regulate who got the money or how it was spent. The California charter law is an open invitation to graft and corruption.

And they walked through an open door, reaping millions from the state’s lax law. Deregulation and lack of oversight was supposed to spur innovation. But it mostly spurred theft.

He writes:

The state of California puts more than $80 billion annually into k12 education. Because that money is a natural target for profiteers and scammers, extra vigilance is needed. However, California’s charter school law was developed to provide minimum vigilance.

During its early stages, several billionaires like Carry Walton Penner, Reed Hastings and Arthur Rock made sure the California charter school law was designed to limit governmental rules and oversight. For example, charter schools are not required to meet the earthquake standards prescribed in the 1933 Field Act, which hold public schools to higher building code requirements. Since its enactment no public schools have collapsed in an earthquake. The picture of the Education Collaborative School above is evidence that students in a known earthquake zone are now at increased risk of injury and death.

A few weeks ago Louis Freedberg observedthat a key weakness in California’s chartering law is that there are no standards for authorizers and a lack of expertise. He also wrote about the number of charter authorizers saying, “unlike many states, California has hundreds of them: 294 local school districts, 41 county offices of education, along with the State Board of Education.” Among these 336 authorizers, several are school districts of less than 1,000 students which have neither the capacity nor training to supervise charter schools. Some of these small districts look more like charter school grafters than public school districts.

The California law is deeply defective. It assumes that the market will produce better schools. We now know that isn’t right.

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