National charter movement needs to take criticism of funding seriously

The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton has a story today revealing the Federal Government’s plan to award $157 million to charters mostly by providing grants to States so that they can finance expansion of these alternative schools.  There is only one problem according to Ms. Layton:

“The inspector general discovered dozens of charter schools received federal dollars but never opened their doors to students. The schools received millions in federal funds, but there was no record of what happened to the equipment, supplies or anything else purchased with the federal dollars for schools that never opened, the audit said.”

Those interested in the success of charters need to take findings such as these with the utmost seriousness.  If anything can stop this movement that is helping children overcome the impact of living in poverty it is financial irregularities.  The Post reporter points out that since fiscal year 2005 the U.S. Department of Education has provided charters across the country with over $5 billion.

It would be better in my opinion if government funding went to charter school authorizers instead of to the States or to individual schools.  Authorizers are better equipped to track dollars and academic performance. Perhaps the Center for Education Reform or the National Alliance for Public charter Schools can make this argument at the federal level.

The Obama Administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have consistently been strong supporters of charter schools through the Race to the Top Competition and through the waivers that have been offered to the No Child Left Behind Legislation.  Let’s not let this support hurt the very schools that they are intending to help.

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