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At least one local charter school leader is reminding the community that not all charter schools are bad.
It comes on the heels of a report the state Auditor General’s Office released Thursday afternoon regarding noted problems at some state charter schools including the misuse of taxpayer dollars.
THERE ARE GOOD CHARTER SCHOOLS AND THERE ARE BAD CHARTER SCHOOLS LIKE THERE ARE GOOD PUBLIC SCHOOL (DISTRICTS) AND BAD PUBLIC SCHOOL (DISTRICTS).
Levent Kaya, Young Scholars CEO
“There are good charter schools and there are bad charter schools like there are good public school (districts) and bad public school (districts),” Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School CEO Levent Kaya said. “I agree with the auditor general that we need a system in which public funds are spent in a responsible manner to the expenses that these funds are allocated for. We are all for transparency and accountability. We are upset to read such reports about charter schools, which gives all charter schools a bad reputation when, in fact, (a) majority of them work very hard to provide the best they can for the students.”
In the report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called out three schools, including the Beaver County-based PA Cyber Charter School that educates at least 77 students in Centre County.
PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS PAYTUITION PER STUDENT WHO ATTENDS A CHARTER SCHOOLCharter schools are funded through tuition paid for by local school districts that have students who live within their borders who attend the charterThe report also pointed out some charter schools that “had intermingled relationships that put individual self-interests above student needs while controlling hundreds of millions of taxpayer education funds from nearly every district in the state.”The goal for reform, DePasquale said, is to ensure education dollars help students learn, instead of help individuals profit.Charter school law reform, as presented by DePasquale, also includes improvement in accountability, effectiveness and transparency of charter schools, by creating an independent statewide charter school oversight board.
INTERESTINGLY, MOST OF THE SERIOUS PROBLEMS — PARTICULARLY THOSE ASSOCIATED WITH THE MANAGEMENT COMPANY, LACK OF TRANSPARENCY AND RELATED-PARTY TRANSACTIONS — THAT WE FOUND IN OUR AUDITS ARE PERMITTED UNDER THE CURRENT CHARTER SCHOOL LAW. THAT IS BEYOND RIDICULOUS, AND IT NEEDS TO CHANGE NOW.
Eugene DePasquale, auditor general
“Interestingly, most of the serious problems — particularly those associated with the management company, lack of transparency and related-party transactions — that we found in our audits are permitted under the current charter school law,” DePasquale said in a statement. “That is beyond ridiculous, and it needs to change now.”
And some local public school district leaders are hoping charter school exposure by the state will help the community get a better understanding of the system and how it should change.
“The auditor general’s report on PA Cyber Charter School and other charter schools is disturbing because it shows that the state charter school law has permitted for-profit companies to misuse taxpayer dollars, as well as negatively impact the development of K-12 students,” State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said in an emailed statement. “We hope that our community better understands the state’s charter law and how it gives neither local oversight nor control to the community. That is, the locally elected public school board does not have authority over or oversight of any cyber or brick-and-mortar charter school.”
But at the State College-based Young Scholars charter school, Kaya said they’re academically successful, financially sound, growing in enrollment and run by a board who Kaya said is “dedicated.”
WE ARE REQUIRED TO CONDUCT ANNUAL FINANCIAL AUDITS BY AN ACCOUNTING FIRM. OUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION IS PRESENTED TO OUR BOARD IN ALL THE BOARD MEETINGS, REPORTED TO THE STATE, AND IS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE.
“We are required to conduct annual financial audits by an accounting firm,” Kaya said. “Our financial information is presented to our board in all the board meetings, reported to the state and is publicly available.”
In 2015, Young Scholars received $3,895,535 in total revenue.
Of the total revenue, Young Scholars sets aside 3 to 5 percent of the total budget for a “rainy day” fund balance used to help pay for projects like building expansions or emergency miscellaneous items, Kaya said.
That total averaged to $11,457.46 spent per student to educate them at Young Scholars, but in the same year, the school spent $3,530,299 — less than its revenue — which equaled $10,383.23 to educate per student.
Bald Eagle Area, in the 2015-16 school year, spent $11,877.77 for a regular ed student and $21,943.69 for a special education student to be educated by the district.
At Bellefonte Area, Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said the district spent an average of $16,936 per student last school year to educate at their district. That number includes special and regular ed students.
The cost of education per student is determined by individual district systems.
Bean said Bellefonte Area dishes about $12,000 for a regular ed student to attend a charter, and about $26,000 for a special education student to attend a charter school.
That amounted to more than $1.7 million in charter school costs last year, Bellefonte Area Superintendent Michelle Saylor said.
Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/education/article103826406.html#storylink=cpy