Bill Gates struggled for years to bring charter schools to Washington State, over the opposition of parent groups, teachers, and civil rights organizations. He lost three state referenda, but won the fourth—barely—by blitzing voters with a multimillion dollar campaign that the opponents could not match.

Be careful what you want. First a CREDO report found that the charters did not outperform the much-maligned public schools.

Now a state audit reports that charters in Seattle and Tacoma are breaking the law by hiring uncertified teachers.

Teachers who lacked proper accreditation taught at charter schools in Seattle and Tacoma, in violation of state rules. This was discovered through an audit; State Auditor Pat McCarthy called these findings “unprecedented.”

The state audit found that Summit Sierra and Summit Atlas, schools in Seattle, and Summit Olympus, a school in Tacoma, received nearly $4 million in funding related to the positions, which may now need to be repaid…

The auditor’s office estimated that Summit schools received $3.89 million in state funding more than it should have related to the teaching positions filled by uncertificated staff.

In a formal response to the audit findings, an attorney for Summit Public Schools challenged all of them, and the state’s repayment calculations.

“It is simply not the case that a person is only qualified to teach under Washington law if he or she has a state-issued teacher certificate,” wrote attorney David Stearns.

The auditors, Stearns wrote, failed “to recognize the explicit exception to the teacher certification requirement that applies to charter schools.”

Jessica de Barros, interim executive director of the Washington State Charter School Commission, which authorizes and oversees Summit Public Schools, disagreed.

“All public charter schools are required to employ certificated teachers,” de Barros said. “The Commission supports full compliance with all of the audit recommendations,” including repayment of inappropriately-granted state dollars.

“We have since strengthened our systems to ensure these inadvertent reporting issues will not happen again,” said Kate Gottfredson, spokesperson for Summit Public Schools. “We will work with the [Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction] to develop an appropriate plan to address the findings.”

It is not clear why the spokesperson for the charter chain thought the problem was a “reporting issue,” not a breaking-the-law issue.