With the encouragement of the super lobbyists of the California CharterSchoolAssociation, the California Legislature continues to block any meaningful reform of its lax charter law, even as the news breaks that online charter operators were charged with scamming more than $50 million from taxpayers.

Peter Greene calls this one “a spectacular charter scam.” He is right. We have seen plenty of garden-variety scams and multi-Million dollar charter frauds, but this one is the biggest yet!

Morgan Cook and Kristin Taketa report in the San Diego Union-Tribune (a newspaper that supports charters):

Using in-depth knowledge of California education funding, charter school regulations and deceptive business disclosures, an Australian citizen and his partner in Long Beach orchestrated a multi-year conspiracy to fleece taxpayers out of more than $50 million, prosecutors say.

Sean McManus, 46, an Australian who operated charter schools in California, and another charter school operator, Jason Schrock, 44, and nine others were named as defendants in a 67-count indictment announced this past week by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors say McManus, Schrock and others enrolled thousands of students into online charter schools, often without their knowledge, and collected millions in state funds using student information obtained from private schools and youth athletic groups.

This criminal enterprise funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into private bank accounts of the defendants,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan.

Eight of the 11 co-defendants have pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations. Two more are expected to be arraigned June 6….McManus is at large, possibly in Australia, prosecutors said. A San Diego Superior Court judge issued a $5-million bench warrant for his arrest and froze the accounts of charter schools, related companies and individuals related to the alleged conspiracy.

A reader who calls himself “Francisco” has commented recently that there are just as many frauds in public schools as in charter schools. Hey, Francisco, can you top this?

Peter Greene responds:

The twitterverse rebuttal has been, “Oh, yeah. You’re just focusing on charters. I’ll bet we could public school scams just as bad.” Maybe. But the oversight provided by a locally-elected board and mandated transparency of financial dealings would make it pretty damn hard. To pull off a scam of this magnitude, you need to wide-open barely-regulated low-oversight world of charters.

As Greene points out, in what world is it possible to buy and sell schools like franchises other than Charter World?