By the Arizona Republic Editorial Board
Twenty years ago, Arizona was on the cutting edge of school choice and the charter school movement was designed to produce specific goals for parents, students and schools. It’s time look at how it worked.
They had a record 180,000 students in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Arizona Charter Schools Association. They received more than $1 billion in public money in fiscal 2016, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
But a new report shows disturbing consequences from Arizona’s failure to demand accountability and transparency from these publicly funded operations.
The report from the Grand Canyon Institute, a centrist think tank, needs to become part of ongoing discussions about larger issue of school funding in Arizona.
Lax rules invite financial abuses
It identified practices that invite financial abuses at charter schools but are not illegal under Arizona law.
The three-year study also found that administrative salaries are higher in charter schools and teacher salaries are lower than in district public schools. In addition, classroom spending and academic performance are both lower in charters than in district schools.
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On top of a state audit, Sweetwater schools face $11 million negative fund balance after previously projecting a surplus
Sweetwater Union High School District faces an $11 million negative fund balance despite officials claiming they would end the year with a surplus. The San Diego County Office of Education has commissioned an audit after a state fiscal analysis found the district misrepresented its finances for years, frequently under-reporting its spending and over-estimating its revenue. The analysis found widespread breach of internal controls, which raises red flags for the potential of fraud. The report also highlighted the district’s lack of a comprehensive strategy to repay a $68 million debt due in June. Should the school district officials fail to improve the financial situation, the district may require a state bailout and be taken over by the county’s education office, taking years to regain local control.
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The FBI accumulated detailed evidence in the investigation of college basketball corruption that includes programs such as Arizona, Louisville, Auburn, Miami, USC, and Oklahoma State. The evidence surrounds agent Andy Miller and an associate, Christian Dawkins, and includes documents, bank records, and wire taps that delineate records of payments and scheduled payments to players and families. The fallout from this scandal is ongoing but includes Louisville head coach, Rick Pitino, who was fired in October after law enforcement announced a probe in its investigation due to allegations of “fraud and malfeasance” and contract violations in recruiting basketball players. Louisville was then forced to vacate 123 wins, including the 2013 title and 2012 Final Four.
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