After Charter Scandal, California Charter School Association Says: “No Accountability Needed”

The Tri-Valley Learning Corporation charter chain in California was caught in a massive scandal, after millions of dollars of taxpayer money went missing. Some in the legislature thought this was proof of the need for stronger oversight and accountability. But the California Charter School Association, rolling in billionaire dough from the likes of Reed Hastings and Eli Broad, will oppose any meaningful effort to hold charters accountable.

You see, there are all kinds of charters. Some are honest. Some are run by thieves. They need “flexibility.” CCSA’s job is to protect them all.

CCSA is Betsy DeVos’s dream team!

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“Prompted by investigations into alleged misappropriation of funds at Tri-Valley Learning Corporation, a charter school chain based in Alameda County, the California Charter Schools Association and advocates for more charter school transparency are stepping up efforts to advance competing approaches to combating financial fraud, waste and mismanagement.

“Tri-Valley operated in two districts in Northern California, east of San Francisco. It had two schools in Livermore in Alameda County and two schools in Stockton in San Joaquin County. The Alameda County district attorney was already investigating Tri-Valley when the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team completed an audit in June. That report concluded that charter school executives had conflicts of interest and that the organization had commingled funds, including the use of “bonds totaling over $67 million to purchase land and buildings under the pretext that the acquisition was for a public charter school.” Tri-Valley filed for bankruptcy in June, the same month its schools were closed.

“The scale of the alleged misappropriation of funds at Tri-Valley is raising larger issues about how to ensure that public money for charter schools is not misspent. In its 2015 report, “Risking Public Money: California Charter School Fraud,” the San Francisco-based nonprofit law firm Public Advocates estimated losses of more than $100 million due to fraud for that year.

“While charter schools are subject to significant reporting requirements and monitoring by oversight bodies, including chartering entities, county superintendents and the State Controller, no oversight body regularly conducts audits,” the report states.

“Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, is among those calling for more charter school transparency. For example, he told EdSource last week that charter schools need standardized financial management systems, such as common software, to share their data with the school districts that oversee their operations.

“It’s clear that the statutory framework in this state has been reactive and not proactive,” O’Donnell said.

“Representatives of the California Charter Schools Association disagree.

“We need flexibility in financial management because there are many kinds of charter schools,” said Colin Miller, the association’s senior policy advisor.

“Instead, the charter association supports legislation that would allow county offices of education to regulate charter organizations that operate in multiple school districts. Miller said oversight of Tri-Valley might have been more stringent if it had been regulated by the board of education for Alameda County, the site of the charter operator’s headquarters, instead of by two school districts in different counties.”

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