Roebuck: New national report spotlights Pa. charter school problems; Report says waste, fraud and abuse may total $1.4 billion nationwide
HARRISBURG, April 29 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said a new national report shows the need for strong charter school reforms in Pennsylvania like the legislation he plans to introduce soon.
The report by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is titled "The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, And Abuse." It covers more than $200 million in alleged or confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools. The report says standard forensic auditing methodologies suggest the real total is closer to $1.4 billion, but that much "will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud."
Roebuck said: "Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are unfortunately well-represented in this report. In Harrisburg, House Republicans have passed a charter school bill (H.B. 530) that falls short on needed reforms and oversight and would override local control to make it even easier to start charter schools – a dangerous combination for kids and taxpayers. House Democrats will continue to stand for greater accountability and transparency in these privately run, publicly funded schools. Fortunately, the Senate and Governor Tom Wolf still have the opportunity to do better, and the governor's budget proposes serious reforms for charter schools."
"Pennsylvania's current system leads to these incidents often being exposed too late, when much of the money may be gone and the damage is done. Having better oversight could have prevented many of these costly incidents in the first place, and Pennsylvania's oversight is so limited that we may be missing many more of them. There are charter schools that are innovative and provide a good education, but we must have the tools to deal with the bad apples, and we shouldn't overpay for the good ones. Our children and taxpayers deserve better," Roebuck said.
Roebuck has previously issued similar reports at the state level, which are available at www.pahouse.com/Roebuck/InTheNews/Newsletter/. The 2013 report listed investigations or potential problems at charter schools in 13 counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Monroe, Northampton and Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania Auditor General's Office has also issued reports calling for greater accountability and transparency in charter schools.