Kevin McCorry read the report from the federal Office of the Inspector General and learned that the major malefactors of the charter industry are the big corporate management chains.

He writes:


Some charter schools operate like islands — day-to-day they run independently of any higher or centralized power.

Others contract with a management organization — sometimes part of a big network, sometimes not. Sometimes for-profit, sometimes not.

It’s these charter management organizations, or CMOs, that have been criticized recently by the Office of the Inspector General inside the U.S. Department of Education.

In a September report, the OIG warned that CMOs pose a “significant risk” to both taxpayer dollars and performance expectations.

The report studied 33 CMOs in six states and found that two-thirds were cause for concern, with internal weaknesses that put federal tax dollars at risk.

Pennsylvania was one of the states investigated, and the report echoed much of what Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has already flagged about CMOs in the state.

He testified on the issue at a hearing in Allegheny County last week.

“When you have the larger management companies running a broad chunk of schools, we view that as a major issue,” he said. “If you were not allowed to find out the salary of your school district superintendent, what would be the outcry in your district?…There would be pitchforks at that meeting. In many of the management companies, we don’t even get to see the salaries let alone the costs.”

In the federal report, five Pa. CMOs were studied — four in Philadelphia and one in Chester. Two in Philadelphia checked out, but the other three rang alarm bells.

The report did not call out organizations by name.

There’s only one charter school in Chester, though, Chester Community Charter. It’s run by CSMI Education Management, a for-profit entity headed by Vahan Gureghian, a wealthy, politically influential player in state politics.

The report says he wrote checks to himself for $11 million dollars without seeking board approval in 2008-09.

This isn’t illegal in and of itself, but like the rest of the red flags in the report, the Inspector General says this raises concerns about the potential for waste, fraud and abuse.

The NAACP is right. It is time for accountability and transparency.