CEA Criticizes Practices at Corporate-Run Charter Including Apparent Fraud and Overbilling Taxpayers $1.6 Million
The Connecticut Education Association supports the State Department of Education’s revocation proceedings for Path Academy Charter School in Windham and its charter management organization (CMO), Our Piece of the Pie. The Department has uncovered shocking practices that include defrauding the state of nearly $1.6 million, billing the state for 128 phantom students, operating unauthorized schools, and tolerating excessive absenteeism.
“The state cannot allow these shocking practices to continue. Our children and their education—as well as state dollars—require protection from fraud and fiscal abuse,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “It is unacceptable when charter schools are not held to the same standards as traditional public schools, or are given free reign over public dollars with no public oversight.”
“Unfortunately, closing down Path Academy is the beginning, not the end of what is needed,” Cohen said. “The legislature must pass stronger laws that govern charter school management companies to ensure that they follow the law, and not defraud the public.”
Of the students who actually attended Path Academy, sixty-five percent were absent 50 or more days, and thirty-three percent were absent 100 or more days, according to a report by the State Department of Education.
“The loss of nearly $1.6 million in state education funds is inexcusable when funding is being cut for traditional public schools across the state,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “These funds could have been used to help students in cities and poor districts. The $1.6 million would have prevented the elimination this past year of the state’s Teacher Education and Mentoring (TEAM) program. TEAM improves teacher development, quality, and retention, which is especially important in urban schools with high numbers of new teachers.”
The number of charter schools has increased over the last ten years, and many are run by corporate organizations that put high management fees ahead of children’s classroom learning. In fiscal 2016-2017, the state spent more than $7 million on charter school management fees that did not support students or their education. At the same time, an additional $45 million was spent by the state on charter school construction, renovation and expansion, while statewide K-12 enrollment is declining and school districts are closing school buildings.
“These corporate-run charter schools have made it difficult to account for and follow taxpayer funding,” said Sheila Cohen. “This is unacceptable and makes no sense. The state must require transparency and accountability.”
Cohen emphasized, “We need to protect our children in charter schools as well as account for taxpayer dollars. Where public funding goes, public accountability must follow.”