and USA Today New Jersey are running a five-part series called “Cashing in on Charter Schools, written by reporters Jean Rimbach and Abbott Koloff.

Follow this series if you care about integrity in spending public dollars.

What follows is an excerpt. Open the link to read the story. .

Part one.

NJ taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and renovate charter school buildings, but the public doesn’t own them.

School buildings that are paid for with millions of dollars in public money but owned by private groups.

Inflated rents, high interest rates and unexplained costs borne by taxpayers.

And tax dollars used to pay rents that far exceed the debt on some school buildings.

This is the world of charter school real estate in New Jersey.

Where public money can disappear in a maze of intertwined companies.

Where businesses and investors can turn a profit at taxpayer expense.

And where decisions about millions in tax dollars are made privately, with little public input and little to no oversight by multiple state agencies.

More than two decades into the state’s experiment to create charter schools, which were conceived to provide residents with choices and to spur innovation, serious flaws in the design of the system have led to the diversion of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to private companies that control real estate.

Two of the state’s largest charter school operators, KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools, have been permitted by the state to monopolize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid for public school construction, helping them to create networks of privately owned buildings.

And investors positioned themselves to make millions from taxpayers, including real estate entrepreneurs, developers and a range of lenders….

KIPP New Jersey’s new Newark Collegiate Academy building, located at 229 Littleton Ave., was built with the help of millions of dollars in federal aid.

What that means is that millions of your tax dollars are being siphoned off by private interests to pay for buildings ― often without your knowledge ― that you don’t own.