Key Issues


In theory, charter schools are held accountable by their authorizers, the entity given the responsibility and power to sponsor and monitor school operations. But in practice, charter schools often are accountable to no public agency. For example, in the case of the Texas Virtual Academy, a school that had failed to meet state performance standards, K12 Inc. found a “loophole for-profit companies contracting with state schools.” Instead of being paid by Southwest Schools, a charter school, K12 is being paid by Responsive Education Solutions, another charter school. The Texas Observer reports that the school is “virtually unchanged.”

Real accountability is difficult for several reasons, for brick-and-mortar and virtual charter schools alike. In some cases, greater autonomy leads to less accountability, especially for charter schools that hire for-profit providers. (See also Public Control.) States lack the resources or will to monitor the authorizers, let alone the schools themselves. (See Oversight.) Even when accountability exists in theory, regulators sometimes look the other way. In the case of Options Charter School in Washington, D.C., an official with the District of Columbia charter school board is accused not only of failing to hold the school accountable but also of participating in a scheme that enriched others at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Charter schools should follow the laws, serve students well and be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Unfortunately, the combination of for-profits’ accountability to shareholder returns and weak accountability to public institutions too often leads to abuse.

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Charter School in PA using facilities to funnel cash away from instruction

  |   Tags: Accountability, Finance and Facilities, Oversight, Public Control, Self-Dealing, Transparency

A recent article on outlines a few of the ways charter schools use facilities funding to divert public money. This includes expensive bond transactions, related party deals, and lining the pockets of consultants. As Rutgers education professor Bruce Baker put it: “public policy permits a bad deal for the public — one that essentially […] Read More »

Texas school board rejects Athlos charter school AGAIN

  |   Tags: Accountability, Charters, Equity, Transparency, Weak Oversight

The Texas school board of education rejects the Athlos Academy charter application for the second year in a row. The application submitted by Idaho-based Athlos Academies to open two new charter schools in the Dallas area was vetoed by a vote of 12-2 at the Texas State Board of Education meeting on July 17th. Education […] Read More »

Pearson is cashing in without results

  |   Tags: Accountability, Public Control, Quality, Transparency

Pearson is making tens of millions from taxpayer dollars from deals made without competitive bidding, even though there is little proof that their services and products are effective. A POLITICO investigation found that “Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards. And in […] Read More »