Arizona is a swamp of charter corruption.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Republic won the distinguished George Polk Award for its coverage of charter school corruption.

Now star reporter Craig Harris has another blockbuster story.

He reports that the founder of a charter chain paid companies he owns or co-owns nearly $47 million in the past year. 

American Leadership Academy, an East Valley charter school chain, paid this past fiscal year at least $46.8 million to companies owned or co-owned by founder Glenn Way or his relatives, newly released financial records show. 

The payouts include more than $30 million to the management company that employs the schools’ teachers and staff, millions to another firm for operational services, and almost half a million to an apparel firm for school or athletic uniforms. Way or one of his relatives is a co-owner in all of those businesses.

In total, the payments to so-called related parties made up more than half of ALA’s annual $79 million budget.

An Arizona Republic investigation last year found that businesses owned by or tied to Way resulted in profits of about $37 million in real estate deals associated with the expansion of ALA schools, a figure Way said at the time was closer to $18 million because of other costs. 

Arizona is fortunate to have the Arizona Republic looking out for frauds and corruption because the state doesn’t care.

Arizona also has Curtis Cardine of the Grand Canyon Institute, a former superintendent of both public and charter schools. Cardine became so incensed about endemic corruption that he has studied the finances of every charter school in the state (except those that keep their book secret). He reported in a book called Carpetbagging America’s Public Schools that nearly 3/4 of the state’s charter schools do business with “related” companies, companies connected or owned by the charter owner.

The hard-right Governor Doug Ducey is a stand-in for the Koch Foundation. His elections were funded by the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other billionaires who hope to eliminate public education.

Parents and teachers managed to defeat their last attempt to expand vouchers by fighting for a referendum, in which vouchers were overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Someone needs to demand accountability and transparency for charters.

Arizona is the only state that openly endorses for-profit charters. The other states ban for-profits, but allow for-profit management companies to operate nonprofit charters, which is a shell game.