Saturday, March 5, 2016

Charter school accountability: Non-existent in Arkansas

Posted By on Sat, Mar 5, 2016 at 7:27 AM

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning duly reported on a legislative audit committee report on questionable spending by a failed charter school in Little Rock, the Dreamland Academy.

Here's the full legislative audit.

As the Democrat-Gazette noted, state money  provided nearly a half-million dollars to a firm the leader of the school started, in addition to salary, bonus and other payments to the school leader and her spouse.

Some legislators seem surprised at the lack of oversight. No kidding. And it will be interesting to see how hard the D-G pursues the enormous question — getting great attention nationwide — of the lack of accountability for the increasing public millions being poured into charter schools. This is a product of the "school choice" racket being marketed by the Walton family and other billionaires, including the owner of the Democrat-Gazette, which editorially offers unstinting praise of any and all charter schools despite an absence of evidence of superior worth. Charter schools enjoy the presumption of goodness because of the presumed rottenness of real public schools governed democratically. Some charters are good. Some are terrible. They all have inherent advantages not enjoyed by real public schools, which must take all comers no matter how desperate the family circumstances and dysfunction of the students. Many are profit-making scams, with management corporations raking off big public bucks. They are functionally private schools paid for by taxpayers, with none of the accountability that goes with other public schools. In Little Rock, the state continues to send money to perpetually failing charter schools, while taking over the Little Rock School District on account of marginal test scores in six of four dozen schools, many functioning quite well.

But get this from the Education Department about the Dreamland Academy:

In a statement to auditors, the Department of Education said it was not responsible for the school, and because it had closed, "corrective actions relating to the audit findings are not necessary."

The Education Department "did not have management responsibility for the operation of the Charter School during or after its closure and, therefore, was not responsible for the design and implementation of programs and controls to prevent and detect fraud and to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, contracts, agreements, and grants," the department said.
If the state of Arkansas had no responsibility for this charter school, it has no responsibility for any of them. Remember this next week when the state Board of Education rubber stamps still more charter school programs designed to skim advantaged students from the Little Rock School District.  Rest easy, however. The educrats will continue to ride herd on the increasingly disadvantaged remnants of the city's public school district and the Democrat-Gazette will recite in great detail every failing.

Auditors found payments in this case violated state law. And that's not the responsibility of the state Department of Education? If this doesn't lay bare the charter scam, nothing does.

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