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Murray writes: "Recently the US Department of Education released their 2020 budget with a whopping 12% decrease in funding. Many in Congress were not pleased."

A classroom. (photo: Nicholas Fevelo/NY Daily News)
A classroom. (photo: Nicholas Fevelo/NY Daily News)

The US Department of Education Gave Out Nearly One-Billion Dollars to Charter Schools That Never Even Opened

By Matt Murray, NH Labor News

16 April 19


ecently the US Department of Education released their 2020 budget with a whopping 12% decrease in funding. Many in Congress were not pleased.

“The three education budgets from this administration have proposed the largest cuts to education funding in four decades. That’s since the department was created in 1979,” said Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who chairs the Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, at a hearing on DeVos’ proposed 2020 budget. “Madam Secretary, I have to say, and maybe it’s offensive: Shame on you,” DeLauro said.

DeVos made headlines across the country when she proposed eliminating funding for the Special Olympics. DeVos also wanted to cut funding to the 21st Century Community Learning Center, “which supports after-school and summer programs for students, particularly those who come from low-income families or attend low-performing schools.

In spite of all of the cuts to programs for children with special needs and programs specifically aimed to help low income families, DeVos is requesting an additional $500 million dollars to expand the charter school program.

The Department of Education’s Charter School Program (CHP) is rife with controversy as explained in a new report from Our Schools and the Network for Public Education.

The report, titled “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride,” found that up to $1 billion awarded by the U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program—in more than 1,000 grants—was wasted on charter schools that never opened or opened for only brief periods before being shut down for mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment, and fraud.

The report, authored by Jeff Bryant, Chief Correspondent and Writing Fellow for the Independent Media Institute’s Our Schools project, and Carol Burris, the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education, show that for years people have been scamming the federal government by collecting “seed money” to start a new charter schools only to disappear shortly after.

“Regardless of whether you favor charter schools or not, you should be outraged that precious education dollars from the federal government continue to be wasted on charter school experiments that have clearly gone awry,” wrote Bryant in an email to the NH Labor News. “Not only is the money wasted on schools that never open or quickly close, but children, families and communities are deceived into chasing after education opportunities that end up being mirages and drains of time and resources.

In the report, researchers found “that as many as one-third of all charter schools receiving CSP grants never opened, or opened and shut down. In fact, the failure rates for grant-awarded charter schools in California has reached nearly four in ten.” Some of the schools received their grant money before they even received their charters.

“In 2011, the Tikum Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School was approved for a three-year $600,000 grant from the [Non-State Educational Agencies] charter school fund. Yet, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, the state’s only charter school authorizer, had rejected the school’s application three times due, in part, to misrepresentations that the school had made.”
“In 2015, the Innovative Schools Development Corporation received a three-year federal grant totaling $609,000 to open the Delaware STEM Academy charter school.
….In June 2016, Delaware’s Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Secretary of Education both recommended that the school’s charter be revoked two months ahead of its planned opening, due to low enrollment of just 30 students and uncertain funding due to an over reliance on external grants.”

The report focused on 7 key areas of malfeasance in the Charter School Program:

  1. Hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars have been awarded to charter schools that never opened or opened and then shut down. In some cases, schools have received federal funding even before securing their charter.

  2. The CSP’s grant approval process appears to be based on the application alone, with no attempt to verify the information presented. Schools have been approved for grants despite serious concerns noted by reviewers.

  3. Grants have been awarded to charter schools that establish barriers to enrollment, discouraging or denying access to certain students.

  4. Recommendations by the Office of the Inspector General have been largely ignored or not sufficiently addressed.

  5. The department does not conduct sufficient oversight of grants to State Entities or State Education Agencies, despite repeated indications that the states are failing to monitor outcomes or offer full transparency on their subgrants.

  6. The CSP’s grants to charter management organizations are beset with problems including conflicts of interest and profiteering.

  7. Under the current administration, while Congressional funding for the CSP rises, the quality of the applications and awardees has further declined.

Before any more of our tax dollars are given away in this charter school scam, Congress must take action to address these concerns.

“We cannot afford to continue to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into a program whose stewards are clearly asleep at the wheel.”

“Citizens in the Granite State should tell their representatives in Congress to reject DeVos’s proposal to increase funding for the federal government’s charter school program and demand the Department of Education audit the program to account for the how money has been misspent and to claw back misspent funds,” added Bryant.

Bryant also pointed out that living in New Hampshire also provides us with a unique opportunity that people other states do not have.

“New Hampshire Democrats should question presidential hopefuls who visit the state about their views of charter schools and whether or not these schools should be as transparent and accountable as our public schools are.”

You can read and download the entire report from the Network for Public Education, here.

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