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Report Criticizes Arizona Charter Schools

A recent report criticizes Arizona charter schools. Credit: Center for Media and Democracy
A recent report criticizes Arizona charter schools. Credit: Center for Media and Democracy
October 23, 2015

PHOENIX – Arizona charter schools are skating by with too little supervision – according to a recent report by the nonprofit advocacy group the Center for Media and Democracy.

Arizona has 170,000 students attending 556 charter schools – schools the report says have received $69 million in federal grants since 2009.

The report criticizes the Arizona Department of Education for inadequately monitoring both the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and the schools themselves.

Jim Hall, founder of the nonprofit watchdog group Arizonans for Charter School Accountability, says charter schools need to undergo the same audits as public schools, detailing exactly how they spend their money.

He adds they shouldn’t be able to opt out of procurement laws.

"We have very little regulation of how charter schools spend their money,” he states. “If your brother-in-law builds your $8 million dollar without bids, in Arizona that’s perfectly OK.

“The Arizona auditor general has no responsibility over charter schools in Arizona. It’s the only state in the nation where that’s the case."

The report also found that more than 100 charter schools closed in Arizona from mid-2010 to mid-2014 and said some of the cases involved, “mismanagement, fiscal concerns, inflated enrollment figures, terrible academic results, and/or failure to comply with the charters.”

But Whitney Chapa, executive director of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, says there is adequate oversight – because the board submits annual reports to the auditor general. And the schools submit financial data to the board.

"The board has adopted a financial performance framework to ensure that charter holders are viable organizations with strong fiscal management practices," she says. "Also our charter holders are all required to submit annual financial audits to the board, which we review annually."

Hall is pushing for a law to force the state to start collecting more data about charter schools.

Meanwhile U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio in July introduced a bill on the federal level that would increase transparency and accountability in charter schools across the nation.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ