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Will Charter Schools Fail If Forced To Follow The Same Rules As Public Schools?

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"In short, [AB 1316] does the following:
- California Charter School Association (CCSA)

Granada Hills Charter School describes itself as the largest charter school in the country and provides an example of the limits of the current system of auditing publicly funded private schools. For years Granada has used the same auditor to fulfill the state's requirement that an "independent" accounting firm annually review its financial operations. Either out of incompetence, a willingness to look the other way to satisfy the needs of its client, or a relationship that has become too cozy, the annual audits have neglected to uncover improprieties. Some examples:

  • In 2005, Granada bought a house across the street from its campus and this was noted in the audit. What the audit missed was the fact that the school had "accidentally" listed the purchaser on the title as "Bayer, Brian." This "mistake" was not corrected until three years after the purchase.
  • Audits noted a series of loans made to Granada from the Associated Student Body (ASB) bank account. These notes did not include the important details that these loans were illegal and that they had not been approved in advance by the ASB, indicating a lack of appropriate financial controls. The fact that ASB funds were being kept in accounts without the full benefit of deposit insurance was also not disclosed."
  • Granada was sued by a former employee alleging that he was fired after advising the school's leadership of potential asbestos hazards at its facilities. Despite the significant financial liability that the lawsuit posed to the school, there is no mention of the pending litigation in the 2020 audit. By GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) standards, a company must set up a "reserve" for possible losses due to the contingent liability of a pending lawsuit.

A proposed bill before the California Assembly would help to toughen the requirements on those who are auditing education institutions. In part, AB 1316 would require "charter schools to follow the same audit procedures and audit schedules, and use the same Standardized Account Code Structure, as school districts." Auditors for both school districts and charter schools would be required to receive training and their work would be peer-reviewed. To ensure that the law was being followed, an Office of Inspector General at the California Department of Education (CDE) would be created.

(Image by CCSA)   Details   DMCA

The California Charter School Association (CCSA) says that these proposed new rules would "create parity between school districts and charter schools." It also describes AB 1316 as being an "anti-charter school bill" claiming that "the financial impact would be incredibly harmful." The charter school's trade group does not explain why these same requirements are not "incredibly harmful" to their public school counterparts.

The charter school movement was built on the premise that these privately run organizations could deliver education more effectively than the public education system. The results have been less than spectacular with these publicly funded private schools not providing the results that were promised. Any improvements in outcomes are often achieved by cherry-picking students more likely to achieve than by actually providing opportunities for all students.

In a system based on competition, all players should have to compete using the same rules. Yet, the CCSA continuously fights to exclude charter schools from regulations meant to protect taxpayers and students. This benefits the adults running these schools and does not support the #KidsFirst philosophy that charter school proponents like Nick Melvoin claim to espouse.

Unfortunately, the quest to avoid accountability is not limited to financial matters. The CCSA has also prioritized fighting off any attempt to have its schools comply with the Field Act. Its continued success on this matter means that charter school facilities do not have to meet the same stringent earthquake regulations as public schools. While this allows them to reduce costs in the short term, the results may be devastating in a major earthquake.

The CCSA has urged its supporters to contact members of the Assembly Education Committee to state their opposition to the common-sense changes contained within AB 1316. These legislators should also hear from those who support ensuring that public schools and charter schools are on the same footing. The contact information for the members of the committee is as follows:

assemblymember.odonnell|AT|assembly.ca.gov" o patrick="">assemblymember.kiley|AT|assembly.ca.gov" kiley=-- kevin="">assemblymember.bennett|AT|assembly.ca.gov" bennett=-- steve="">assemblymember.dahle|AT|assembly.ca.gov" dahle=-- megan="">assemblymember.lee|AT|assembly.ca.gov" lee=-- alex="">assemblymember.mccarty|AT|assembly.ca.gov" mccarty=-- kevin="">


Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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