Federal courts nationwide have convicted 30 charter school executives of fraud between 2005 and 2014. A solid percentage of those cases involved Philadelphia schools: two at Philadelphia Academy Charter School, two at Raising Horizons Quest Charter School, one at the Center for Economics and Law, one at Harambee Institute of Science and Technology and two at New Media Technology Charter School.
More convictions will likely follow in coming months. Philadelphia charter kingpin Dorothy June Brown, founder of four Philadelphia area charter schools, faces 44 fraud charges pending a psychiatric evaluation. Brown’s case involves $6.5 million in missing funds.
Meanwhile, the IRS this August announced that it is looking into several bonds issued by a quasi-city agency to Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School on suspicion of tax law violations.
The Philadelphia School District’s entire fiscal regulatory organ now consists of two auditors, a clerk and an auditing director. These four individuals oversee 86 district charter schools’ finances.
The $30 million in funding lost to charter fraud in Pennsylvania has elicited organized response in Philadelphia for better financial oversight and disclosure at area charters. Yesterday, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools and Action United released a report on responses they received from 62 requests to charter school operators for information about their internal financial oversight policies. In the seven weeks since the request’s issuance, only four responses have returned containing explicit information.
Advocates delivered that report to the State Attorney General’s office yesterday morning. They then disrupted the first round of testimony in front of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) on new charter applications to demand a moratorium on new contracts until financial regulations and oversight improve.
Approval of all new applications would mean 40,341 new seats at Philadelphia charters, according to a November SRC press release. Existing charters applying to renegotiate their contracts propose the creation of 4,973 new seats.
See here for more detail regarding which charters and networks responded to the information request and with what information, which charters are renegotiating their contracts to expand and how many new seats each of those schools wish to add.
The SRC will hear more testimony from charters on the second floor of the School District’s 440 N. Broad Street building over the next several days. Details on these meetings are available here. SRC’s policy for public comment is available here.