This is where we’re headed in the rest of the country. Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary (you know, the business guy with no experience in actual education who thinks we should run government like a business?), plans to widen the use of charter schools everywhere. Well, we’ve all seen just how accountable the private sector is:
One Philadelphia charter-school operator runs a private parking lot on the side. Another rents out apartments and collects the rent at his school. Yet another rents property to herself, signing her lease as both tenant and landlord.
These are some of the findings in a draft of a city controller’s report on 13 Philadelphia charter schools obtained by The Inquirer that cites excessive salaries, compliant boards whose members are handpicked by school chiefs, inflated rents, and rampant conflicts of interest.
It “is abundantly clear that taxpayer money is at risk,” according to the draft report, which is expected to be released within two weeks.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz declined on Friday to comment on specifics because the completed report has not been made public, but he confirmed that the document The Inquirer obtained was his final draft.
“Charter schools are an experiment in using private business models in the educational field, but this is not private money,” Butkovitz said. “Charter schools are spending tax dollars as if it’s nobody’s business – as if they were private fiefdoms.”
The Controller’s Office opened its special fraud investigation of city charter schools several months after The Inquirer reported allegations of financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest at Philadelphia Academy Charter School in April 2008. Butkovitz’s office has since been sharing information with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is conducting its own criminal investigation of at least nine area charter schools, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
Although charter-school operators and others have claimed previous allegations of financial abuse disclosed by The Inquirer were not the norm, the Butkovitz report says “ethical concerns may, in fact, be more widespread than many acknowledge.”