Sunday, April 25, 2010

USDOE OIG - Charter $ Scandals

Above find link to 3/09 USDOE OIG (Office of Inspector General) report on various charter schools' fiscal shenanigans which the OIG folks had investigated. They hadn't gotten around to NYS when this was written, but in light of recent headlines, I'm sure they will. The USDOE OIG's office in this region is a very fine outfit, from what I've read of its published work.

Lots to make anti-charter folks happy in this report. Puhleez! - those of you who are anti-charter, read it line by line and feel free to get to me offlist ( if there's anything you don't understand. The important point in this audit report, from my viewpoint, is that the OIG reports that most charters are "supervised" by districts, and the districts are doing an abysmal job of supervising charters' financial operations. This is true, from what I can see, of NYC charters "supervised" by the NYCDOE as well.

On the other hand, you all should know that audit report after audit report for public school districts throughout the United States show repetitive fiscal shenanigans, indictments, convictions, etc., and a lot of these reports show fiscal shenanigans on the part of public school officials for which no punishment or penalty appears to have been levied. You can find NYS Comptroller audit reports for NYS districts here: These tend to be pretty uniformly abysmal.

Whereas the USDOE OIG reports that most charters are "supervised" by the districts they're in or which chartered them, in NYS, districts financial operations are allegedly supervised and monitored by NYSED. What the NYS Comptroller's audits show is that districts in NYS do a lot of bad financial things and that when NYSED is notified about them, formally, it does virtually nothing to correct them. USDOE OIG audits of NYSED show the very same thing, writ large. You might also want to search out investigation reports done by the Special Com'r. of Investigations for the NYC Public Schools, Mr. Condon. Condon is far less agressive than his predecessor, Ed Stancik, was, but nevertheless, the few investigations his office issues publicly document the routine, run-of-the-mill corruption with which the NYCDOE is pervasively afflicted. I once asked one of Stancik's supervisors if the NYC DOE (and NYC Bd. of Ed.) actually punished people at or above the principal level when investigatory reports documented corruption and recommended termination. I was told that they could never get answers about this from the NYC DOE (and previously, the Bd. of Ed.), which one should take as a "no." They do punish the little fish, of course.

As far as I'm concerned, it's Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee as between charter and public school financial corruption ... except that there are more public schools than charters and thus a lot more money being ripped off by public school folks than by charter-related folks. And while the UFT and School Boards Ass'n. here may yell about charter corruption, they are not and have not been hitting the Legislature heavily to get serious audit and control systems in place because the corruption is equally pervasive in both the public school and charter industries. The real problem is that in NYS, we do not have a system for serious supervision, audit, monitoring, and control for either the regular public school district industry or the new kid on the block, the charter industry and this is because pols from the Legislature have their hooks quite nicely into both, thank you very much. And the same supervision systems exist both for public and charter schools. Good for the goose ... .

The audits and reports you'll read, if you start looking at the official documents instead of just reading slanted summaries in tabloids (summaries of corruption both in regular and charter schools), are NOT eye-glazing columns of figures concocted by bean counters to induce terminal insomnia. That kind of audit went out of fashion after Enron, with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. You'll mostly see "internal controls" audits which talk about the processes these organizations have, or should have, to keep their own work on the up and up, and so they can detect and deter fraud in the first place - before they get taken for gazillions of taxpayer dollars. So they're not nearly as bad to read as you might think, and the USDOE OIG report mentioned up top is a nice example.

Charter pro or charter con - read audits!

Dee Alpert, Publisher

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