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May 8th, 2014
Grijalva Expresses Deep Disappointment At House Refusal to Improve Charter School Bill, Highlights Findings of Costs to Taxpayers

Washington, D.C. – In the wake of recent news about potentially widespread charter school waste, fraud and abuse, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today expressed his deep disappointment at the House Rules Committee’s decision last night not to allow debate or a vote on his amendments to HR 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act. Grijalva’s amendments, which the Committee ruled out of order, would have made charter school operations more transparent and financially accountable to the public.

HR 10 is expected to get a House vote before the end of the week.

As reported by Salon today:

Just in time for National Charter School Week, there’s a new report highlighting the predictable perils of turning education into a poorly regulated business. Titled “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse,” the report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools. Drawing on news reports, criminal complaints, regulatory findings, audits and other sources, it “found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers,” but warned that due to inadequate oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.”

While there are plenty of other troubling issues surrounding charter schools — from high rates of racial segregation, to their lackluster overall performance records, to questionable admission and expulsion practices — this report sets all those admittedly important issues aside to focus squarely on activity that appears it could be criminal, and arguably totally out of control. It does not even mention questions raised by sky-high salaries paid to some charter CEOs, such as 16 New York City charter school CEOs who earned more than the head of the city’s public school system in 2011-12. [. . .]

The report takes its title from a section of a report to Congress by the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, a report that took note of “a steady increase in the number of charter school complaints” and warned that state level agencies were failing “to provide adequate oversight needed to ensure that Federal funds [were] properly used and accounted for.”

Grijalva’s amendments, respectively, would:

–          require public disclosure of all private contributions made to charter schools.

–          require the development and public disclosure of charter school conflict-of-interest guidelines; require open meetings at every charter school governing board, including parent, educator and support staff representatives; require meetings to be held at times when parents can attend, announced in advance, and made open for the public to attend and testify; and mandate that governing board minutes are published and available online.

“Our school system exists to serve students, not to pay for administrators’ personal luxuries,” Grijalva said. “Our children deserve a good education no matter what school they go to, and taxpayers deserve a return on the investment they make in young Americans’ upbringing. This bill leaves a broken system in place, and I will not support it.”

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