Archives for category: Scandals

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General conducted an in-depth audit of the federal Charter Schools Program, which was initiated in 1994 with a few million dollars by the Clinton administration. Thanks to astute lobbying by the charter industry, the modest program grew to $440 million a year with little or no accountability. Betsy DeVos pushed it aggressively to large charter chains, including for-profit chains.

You will be interested in this account of the audit, written by Valerie Strauss on her blog “The Answer Sheet” in the Washington Post, introducing an analysis by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education.

This audit demonstrates the power and persistence of the Network for Public Education, a small but smart advocate for public schools. NPE operates with one full-time employee and a small number of part-time employees. Our work is motivated not by greed but by idealism and a passionate commitment to the common good. We believe in well-funded schools with experienced teachers for all children.

The introduction by by Strauss and the analysis by Burris has many links, but none transferred when I copied it. I copied some, but not all of them. I urge you to open the original and find the links.

Strauss begins:

The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Inspector General has released a new audit of the federal Charter School Program that found some alarming results about how charter school networks have used millions of dollars in funding. Among other things, the audit found that charter school networks and for-profit charter management organizations did not open anywhere near the number of charters they promised to open with federal funding. This piece looks at the new audit and what it tells us.


The reason this is not surprising is that investigations into the Charter School Programs by the Network for Public Education, an advocacy group that opposes the growth of charter schools, found that same problem, as well as others and reported it a few years ago. You can read my stories about their “Asleep at the Wheel” here and here. (The second report noted that the state with the most charter schools that never opened was Michigan, home to former education secretary Betsy DeVos, who has pushed to expand charter schools for decades.)


Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed. The federal charter program, which began in 1994 with the aim of expanding high-quality charters, had bipartisan support for years, but many Democrats have pulled back from the movement, citing the fiscal impact on school districts and repeated scandals in the sector. The Biden administration is making some changes to the program in an effort to stop waste and fraud and provide more transparency to the operation of charters.


This piece was written by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former award-winning principal in New York. She has been chronicling the charter school movement and the standardized-test-based accountability movement on this blog for years. The Network for Public Education is an alliance of organizations that advocates for the improvement of public education and sees charter schools as part of a movement to privatize public education.


By Carol Burris


A new report issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) entitled “The Effectiveness of Charter School Programs in Increasing the Number of Charter Schools” documents how states, charter management organizations, and charter developers often make wildly exaggerated claims regarding the number of charter schools they will open or expand to secure large grants.

The OIG, an independent watchdog of the U.S. Department of Education (the Department), found that for grants issued between 2013 and 2016, only 51 percent of the schools promised by Charter School Programs (CSP) recipients opened or expanded.


The OIG audit also exposed the sloppy record keeping and weak oversight that characterize CSP operations. Since 2006, the department has paid a private corporation, WestEd, millions of dollars to compile, check and update CSP records. WestEd’s present CSP contract exceeds $12 million. In total, WestEd has active contracts with the U.S. Department of Education worth more than $27.6 million. Yet an alarming number of grant records could not be found when requested by the OIG auditors. And while the Biden administration is attempting to clean up and reform the CSP, according to the independent OIG, more work needs to be done.


What did the Office of the Inspector General audit?
The audit had three goals. The first was to describe how the department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education tracked and reported the number of charter schools that opened and expanded using Charter School Program funds. A second goal was to determine whether CSP grant recipients actually delivered the number of charter schools they promised when they applied for their often multimillion dollar awards. Finally, the audit sought to determine how many schools were still open two years after CSP funding ended.


As its title stated, the audit was an attempt to measure the program’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mission. To conduct the audit, the OIG examined 2013 through 2016 CSP grant records. During that period, the department awarded 103 CSP grants to states, charter management organizations, or individual charter developers. Ninety-four were closely investigated by the OIG. The likely reason these years were chosen was that most grants are for five years. The auditors also found that the department often extends them further when grantees have not spent all of their money. Therefore, more recent grants were excluded because records were likely to be incomplete.

Incomplete and inaccurate records

The auditors noted that while the department, through WestEd, tracked spending and schools while grants were open, the tracking stopped as soon as the grant was complete. Therefore, the department had no way of knowing whether schools remained open beyond the years federal funds propped them up. This speaks to the purpose of the program — to open and expand high-quality charter schools.


When auditors asked the department to define the term high-quality, the department responded that the “CSP office does not determine whether a charter school is high-quality because state rules for determining high quality vary.”


“Additionally,” it said, “the determination of whether a charter school is a high quality is often the responsibility of charter school authorizers.” The department also told auditors that tracking a school’s existence after all money was doled out was not its job.


Even if the department wanted to do a quality check of schools as they were funding and expanding, the OIG found that there was no accurate base of information that they could rely on to determine whether they should continue what was often a multimillion-dollar grant. From the audit:


Although the CSP office created processes for tracking and reporting on charter schools that opened and expanded and charter schools that remained open through the grant performance period end date, those processes did not result in CSP grant recipients reporting precise, reliable, and timely information in their FPRs [final performance reports], APRs [annual performance reports], and data collection forms. The processes also did not result in the CSP office receiving all the necessary information to assess grant recipients’ performance or evaluate the overall effectiveness of the CSP.


Specifically, the department could not produce 13 percent of the required final reports from grantees and 43 percent of the required final data collection sheets. Auditors noted that grantees would report different numbers of schools opened or expanded among required collection forms and final reports. The accuracy of the final documents prepared by WestEd for the department was beyond the scope of the audit.

During our research for our second “Asleep at the Wheel” report, we found that the data collection sheets produced by WestEd and published in 2019 by then Education Secretary Betsy De Vos were replete with errors. Schools that had closed or never opened were reported as open or future. We also noted inaccuracies in recently submitted sheets we received from a Freedom of Information Act request, especially relating to the for-profit management status of the awardee.


But the OIG discovered a far worse problem yet. More than half of the schools that grantees committed to opening or expanding did not open or expand at all.

CSP grantees failed to meet commitments
Grant applicants asked for and received millions of dollars based on their promises to open and expand charter schools. However, when the auditors examined 94 grantee applications, they found that many grantees fell far short of their commitments.

The OIG determined that based on the commitments made in the 94 applications, state education agencies, CMOs, and developers promised to open or expand 1,570 charter schools using CSP funds.


As of July 2021, approximately 75 percent of the grant funding had been spent, yet grantees had only opened or expanded 51 percent of the charters they had promised.


This begs the question, where did millions of tax dollars go? I identified grantees by matching applications on the department website along with numbers in the data set with grant codes in the OIG report.


In its 2016 CSP application, the Florida Department of Education put forth what it called a “bold and ambitious plan to … develop a high-impact system to dramatically improve the opportunities of educationally disadvantaged students. The department said that it would use the grant to “support the creation of 200 new high-quality charter schools over the next five years.”

Florida received $70.7 million to achieve its “bold and ambitious” plan. According to the OIG report, it had only opened 33 percent — or 66 — of the schools it promised to open as of July 2021, although it had spent over 51 percent of the CSP funds.


Colorado’s 2015 application promised that it would open 72 charter schools with its over 24.2 million dollar grant. In the end, it opened fewer than half — just 33 — and expanded three schools. Nevertheless, it spent 87.5 percent of its funds.

Tennessee ambitiously promised to open 114 charter schools. It opened just 16, though it managed to spend 63 percent of its grant. These states are not outliers. The report shows a pattern.

And CMOs also failed to deliver. The KIPP charter network promised 65 schools for its jumbo $48,750,000 grant, one that well exceeded most states. It delivered 34 schools and expanded one.

Finally, there are grants to developers that the department directly provides. The Innovation Development Corporation received a $405,730 CSP grant to open The Delaware Met. It was open for just a few months before it was shut down. It also received and spent $72,000 to open DE Stem. That school was shut down before it even opened. Willow Public School, a Washington charter school, took and spent a $602,875 grant, opened, ran into trouble, changed its name, and then shut down.


The department and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools attribute the problem to authorizer reluctance and state caps on the number of schools that can open. Really? Every state that got a grant has a state board that can override local rejections of applications. State applicants and the department are also well aware of caps. Take the case of the 2018 $78,888,888 CSP grant to the New York State Department of Education, which was outside the scope of the OIG audit.

In the New York State application review, which you can find here, raters acknowledge that New York State had not even used up its previous grant which was open beyond its terms and that charter expansion would be limited by the state cap on the number of charters. Yet they gave the application high scores, and it was approved. Where did that 2018 money go? Over $10 million went to provide staff development in technology for charter schools.

Jumbo grants

Why do states and charter management organizations ask for jumbo grants knowing they cannot deliver? Because they want the money to fund their charter school operations.


States and charter management organizations get to keep 10 percent of the cut for grant administration and technical assistance to charter schools. The bigger the grant, the bigger the cut.

Therefore, KIPP was allowed to keep nearly $5 million for its charter management organization, even though it fell way short of its commitment. The Florida Department of Education secured over $7 million for administrative services on its grant.
Second, there are no guidelines about how much an individual charter school can get. We have seen grants as low as $250,000 and grants to schools of $1.5 million. When a state realizes it cannot or will not meet its commitment, it just doles out larger amounts.


Third, until President Biden, no prior administration did anything about it over the Charter School Program’s existence. Therefore, states, CMOs, and individual schools realized pretty quickly that they could create grandiose applications, sometimes including falsehoods, and there would be no real consequences if commitments were never met.

The present department has taken a terrible beating for creating modest CSP reform regulations which are still being fought by the charter trade organizations and their proxies, including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a charter school authorizer. Challenges include both a lawsuit and a Republican-sponsored bill to overturn the new rules.

But as the OIG audit shows, reforms are desperately needed.

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In case you missed it, asi did, CNN will rerun its special about the two billionaires who are trying to buy control of Texas—this Friday night.

Ed Lavandera, one of the producers, tweeted:

So many of you have asked how to re-watch #DeepInThePocketsofTexas on @CNN, the program will re-air this Friday night July 29th, 11pmET/10pmCT.

Thank goodness for independent media! Oklahoma Watch published an investigative report that detailed a secret slush fund that supplements the salary of the state Secretary of Education.

(This story was produced in partnership with the Oklahoma nonprofit newsroom The Frontier.)

Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed legislation that would have required cabinet members to file public reports to disclose their finances.

If Stitt had signed the bill last month, Oklahomans would learn that Secretary of Education Ryan Walters makes at least $120,000 a year as executive director of a nonprofit organization that keeps its donors secret. Walters is also paid about $40,000 a year by the state, according to state payroll data.

The nonprofit, Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, has refused to disclose its largest donors.

But a joint investigation by The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch has found that much of the organization’s funds come from national school privatization and charter school expansion advocates, including the Walton Family Foundation and an education group founded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.

As Secretary of Education, Walters serves as Stitt’s top advisor on public education policy and is the governor’s liaison for dozens of state boards and programs.

Walters’ outside employment with a nonprofit funded by advocacy groups could be a conflict of interest, said Delaney Marsco, senior attorney for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit group that focuses on government transparency and accountability.

“If you are responsible for making decisions in a certain area of the government and you are being paid by an outside organization that has an interest in that, that absolutely can be a conflict of interest,” Marsco said. “If you are a public servant, your duty is to the public, and anything that kind of calls that into question, even raises the appearance of a conflict of interest, is a problem.”

Under Walters’ leadership, Every Kid Counts Oklahoma was the public face of Stitt’s program that distributed $1,500 grants to families in 2020 funded with $8 million in federal coronavirus relief money. The money was intended to buy tutoring and educational supplies. But a lack of safeguards allowed parents to use some of the funds to buy TVs, gaming consoles and home appliances, an investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier found. Emails and other recordsshow that Walters helped secure the no-bid contract with a Florida company to distribute the money. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has opened an audit into how the state used those funds.

Walters, who declined multiple interview requests, is now running for state superintendent, an elected position overseeing the state Department of Education and a budget of over $3 billion. Unlike in federal elections, candidates for state office in Oklahoma are not required to fill out financial disclosures until after they are elected.

Please open the link and read on.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote a fascinating column about Steve Schmidt’s recent revelations about important political figures. Like the good historian she is, she connects the dots.

At home, a big story broke over the weekend, reminding us that the ties of the Republican Party to Russians and the effect of those ties on Ukraine reach back not just to former president Trump, but at least to the 2008 presidential campaign of Arizona senator John McCain.

Late Saturday night, political strategist Steve Schmidt, who worked on a number of Republican political campaigns including McCain’s when he ran for president in 2008, began to spill what he knows about that 2008 campaign. Initially, this accounting took the form of Twitter threads, but on Sunday, Schmidt put the highlights into a post on a Substack publication called The Warning. The post’s title distinguished the author from those journalists and members of the Trump administration who held back key information about the dangerous behavior in Trump’s White House in order to include it in their books. The post was titled: “No Books. No Money. Just the Truth.”

Schmidt left the Republican Party in 2018, tweeting that by then it was “fully the party of Trump. It is corrupt, indecent and immoral. With the exception of a few governors…it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders…. Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and our values.” Schmidt helped to start The Lincoln Project, designed to sink Trump Republicans through attack ads and fundraising, in late 2019.

The apparent trigger for Schmidt’s accounting was goading from McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain, a sometime media personality who, after years of slighting Schmidt, recently called him a pedophile, which seems to have been a reference to the fact that a colleague with whom Schmidt started The Lincoln Project was accused of online sexual harassment of men and boys. Schmidt resigned over the scandal.

Schmidt was fiercely loyal to Senator McCain and had stayed silent for years over accusations that he was the person who had chosen then–Alaska governor Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice presidential candidate, lending legitimacy to her brand of uninformed fire-breathing radicalism, and about his knowledge of McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist.

In his tweetstorm, Schmidt set the record straight, attributing the choice of Palin to McCain’s campaign director and McCain himself, and acknowledging that the New York Times had been correct in the reporting of McCain’s relationship with the lobbyist, despite the campaign’s angry denial.

More, though, Schmidt’s point was to warn Americans that the mythmaking that turns ordinary people into political heroes makes us unwilling to face reality about their behavior and, crucially, makes the media unwilling to tell us the truth about it. As journalist Sarah Jones wrote in PoliticusUSA, Schmidt’s “broader point is how we, as Americans, don’t like to be told the truth and how our media so loves mythology that they work to deliver lies to us instead of holding the powerful accountable.”

Schmidt’s biggest reminder, though, was that the director of the 2008 McCain campaign was Richard (Rick) Davis, a founding partner of Davis Manafort, the political consulting firm formed in 1996. By 2003, the men were representing pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Yanukovych; in July 2004, U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov was murdered in Moscow for exposing Russian government corruption; and in June 2005, Manafort proposed that he would work for Putin’s government in former Soviet republics, Europe, and the United States by influencing politics, business dealings, and news coverage.

From 2004 to 2014, Manafort worked for Yanukovych and his party, trying to make what the U.S. State Department called a party of “mobsters and oligarchs” look legitimate. In 2016, Manafort went on to lead Donald Trump’s campaign, and the ties between him, the campaign, and Russia are well known. Less well known is that in 2008, Manafort’s partner Rick Davis ran Republican candidate John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Schmidt writes that McCain turned a blind eye to the dealings of Davis and Manafort, apparently because he was distracted by the fallout when the story of his personal life hit the newspapers. Davis and Manafort were making millions by advancing Putin’s interests in Ukraine and eastern Europe, working for Yanukovych and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Schmidt notes that “McCain spent his 70th birthday with Oleg Deripaska and Rick Davis on a Russian yacht at anchor in Montenegro.”

“There were two factions in the campaign,” Schmidt tweeted, “a pro-democracy faction and…a pro Russia faction,” led by Davis, who—like Manafort—had a residence in Trump Tower. It was Davis who was in charge of vetting Palin.

McCain was well known for promising to stand up to Putin, and Palin’s claim that she could counter the growing power of Russia in part because “[t]hey’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska” became a long-running joke (the comment about seeing Russia from her house came from a Saturday Night Live skit).

But a terrific piece in The Nation by Mark Ames and Ari Berman in October 2008 noted: “He may talk tough about Russia, but John McCain’s political advisors have advanced Putin’s imperial ambitions.” The authors detailed Davis’s work to bring the Balkan country of Montenegro under Putin’s control and concluded that either McCain “was utterly clueless while his top advisers and political allies ran around the former Soviet domain promoting the Kremlin’s interests for cash, or he was aware of it and didn’t care.”

Trump’s campaign and presidency, along with Putin’s deadly assault on Ukraine, puts into a new light the fact that McCain’s campaign manager was Paul Manafort’s business partner all the way back in 2008.

Note: Richardson has a list of sources at the end of her post. For some unknown reason, WordPress did not permit me to copy her notes. I inserted some but not all. Open the post to check the links.

Jonathan Chait writes for New York magazine, where his latest article appeared, opposing the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). CSP currently spends $440 million annually to underwrite new charter schools. Chait titled his article “Biden Abandons the Obama Legacy on Charter Schools,” but it might as well have been titled “Biden Abandons the Betsy DeVos Legacy on Charter Schools.”

Chait also attacked the Network for Public Education, which had issued two reports (see here and here) documenting the waste, fraud, and abuse in the CSP, based on the Education Department’s own data. NPE found that almost 40% of CSP funding went to charters that either never opened or closed within a few years of opening. In the life of the program, almost $1 billion had been wasted. In addition, NPE pointed out the scandals associated with some high-profile for-profit charter operators, as well as the use of CSP money to open white-flight charters.

This year, for the first time since the CSP was created nearly 30 years ago, the Department proposed to ban the funding of for-profit charter management organizations and of white-flight charters. The regulations also ask applicants for an impact analysis that describes what effect the new charter is likely to have on existing public schools and why the new charter is needed. These sensible reform proposals sent the charter lobbyists into frenzied opposition, claiming falsely that these regulations were meant to destroy all charter schools. This was nonsense because they would have no effect on the thousands of existing charters, only on applicants for new federal funding, that is, charters that do not yet exist.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, sharply denounced the lies and misrepresentations of the “trade organization” for the charter industry. But, despite her reproach, the charter industry still promotes dishonest diatribes about the Department’s efforts to reform the CSP.

Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, was incensed when she read Chait’s defense of the charter industry’s effort to protect the for-profit managers who have abused CSP funds and of the operators that have used CSP funding to provide white-flight charters.

She wrote the following response.

In his recent column, “Biden Abandons the Obama Legacy on Charter Schools,” Jonathan Chait is perturbed that the U.S. Department of Education referred Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum to me for comment on an article he was writing about the Department’s proposed regulations for funding new charter schools. He then scolds Barnum for not disclosing that the Network for Public Education has received donations from unions. He calls Barnum’s story “neutral.” Chait’s source for this big scoop? The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Jonathan Chait then parrots the “wild exaggerations and misrepresentations” that Rosa De Lauro called out last week after expressing her support for CSP reforms during the Education Department’s 2023 budget hearing. The Appropriations Chairwoman noted that “this kind of information campaign is a familiar tactic for the trade organization [National Alliance for Public Charter Schools]. It does represent charter schools that are run by risky low-quality for-profit education management organizations.”

You know those “wild exaggerations.” I wrote about them here. Obviously, Chait did not read the mentioned Barnum piece, which was solid reporting, and he certainly did not read the proposed regulations carefully (which Representative DeLauro described in a letter to Secretary Miguel Cardona about the charter industry’s misrepresentations). Or he just chose to twist facts and truth.

Now let’s talk about what Jonathan Chait failed to disclose as he opposed the CSP regulation reforms, using the same misinformation that has appeared in other op-eds.

His wife worked for Center City Charter Schools as a grant writer when that charter chain received two grants from the Charter School Program (CSP), the program whose loose rules he is now defending. Download the 2019 database that you can find here and match the years of dispersion to the resume of Robin Chait. But the undisclosed conflict continues to this day. Since 2018, Robin Chait has worked for West Ed which evaluated the CSP during the Betsy De Vos era. And her employer, West Ed, once got its own $1.74 million grant from CSP.

But back to NPE funding. During some recent years we got modest donations from unions to bring teachers to our conferences. At our very beginning, we received start-up funds from the Chicago Teachers Union through a fiscal sponsor, Voices for Children. That ended in 2015. We will always be grateful to our friend, the late Karen Lewis, for that jump-start. Karen foresaw the growing attacks on public schools and teachers as an ominous trend and wanted to encourage allies to support a bedrock institution of our democracy.

We appreciate any tax-deductible donations we get. You won’t get favors, but you will always get a thank you. Our income comes from individual donations from our large number of supporters—educators, parents, family foundations, and other citizens who have a deep and abiding love for public schools.

This is not the first time Chait has been called out for not disclosing his wife’s connections with charters. But given the topic and her work in organizations connected with the Charter School Program, this is the worst omission yet. Shame on New York Magazine for not making him disclose and for letting him play fast and loose with the truth. And shame on Chait’s hypocritical critique of Barnum even as he hides the family connections with the program he defends.

The Tennessee Holler asks a pertinent question:

Why did Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn fail to mention her husband’s employer in her disclosure statement?

The Holler wrote:

This week some eagle-eyed Hollerers pointed out TN Ed Commissioner Penny Schwinn left TNTP, the company where her husband works, off of her source of income disclosure.

She listed it last year, but not this year, despite the fact that he remains on their website as a “Leadership Coach.”

This is especially noteworthy since TNTP was a recipient of an $16 MILLION contract from the Tennessee Education Department, a department Schwinn is in charge of… a fact that was not lost on legislators who raised the “Conflict of Schwinnterest” issue in committee last session.

Was leaving TNTP off the disclosure an oversight on Penny’s part? Was it intentional? Are they no longer married? Is he no longer at the company?

These are questions someone should ask, and we will next time we see her.

It’s worth noting that Schwinn has a history of conflicts of interest and self-dealing. They’ve been hallmarks of her career, showing up in both Delaware and Texas, her stops along the way since starting a charter school in Sacramento. She also ran for school board in Sacramento, where she was supported by Michelle Rhee, whose charters lobbyist organization 50 CAN now is affiliated with charter school lobbyist Victor Evans at Tennessee Can, who is now vocally pushing through the new TISA funding overhaul plan from Governor Lee, even standing with him at press conferences.

Victor does NOT want to talk to us about the connection between Michelle Rhee at his parent company and Schwinn, no matter how hard we try.

There is more. Open the link and follow the story.

Carol Burris is executive director of the Network for Public Education.

She writes:

For the past four years, the Network for Public Education has collected and posted charter school scandals from across the United States on a special page of its website entitled Another Day Another Charter School Scandal which you can find here.

NPE has now turned that page into an interactive research tool, allowing you to find a collection of stories by state, by scandal type and by keyword. For example, if you want to search any published story on scandals associated with Success Academy, just type in Success Academy into the query box and ten stories pop up.

Looking for stories regarding charter theft or fraud? Use the drop down menu and 177 stories appear.

At the beginning of the month, we load up all of the stories we found during the prior month. Check back in early December to see November’s scandals. We have presently cataloged stories from 2019 to the present. We plan to add 2017 and 2018 to the research tool shortly. One thing we know from doing this work is that if it is another day, there is another charter school scandal-which is quite remarkable given that there are only about 7500 charter schools in the United States.

The authorizer of the Hmong College Prep Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, wants to fire the superintendent of the school after learning of big losses in the school’s funds.

A St. Paul charter school’s authorizer has placed the school on probation and recommended the board fire its superintendent after she lost $4.3 million of the school’s money investing in a hedge fund.

The authorizer, Bethel University, said Hmong College Prep Academy’s failed investment “illustrates areas of great concern related to managing finance, governance and legal compliance.”

Christianna Hang, superintendent and chief financial officer, founded the school in 2004. It’s now the state’s largest single-site charter school, with around 2,400 students in the Como neighborhood, and is building a $43 million middle school with financing facilitated by the city of St. Paul.

Hang was looking for opportunities to pay for that project when she ended up wiring $5 million to a hedge fund in 2019, in violation of the school’s policy and state law. The school is now suing the hedge fund.

Bethel’s Aug. 30 letter also cited “significant concerns” about conflicts of interest regarding the superintendent, her husband and a former school board member.

The first conflict involved Bridge Partner Group, a company owned by Hang and her husband, Paul Yang. The board in January approved a contract with the company, effectively converting Yang from the school’s chief operating officer to an independent contractor on a fully guaranteed, five-year contract worth around $190,000 a year; the board later reversed that move.

The second conflict involves Northeast Bank, which was chosen to finance $7 million of the middle school project while one of its vice presidents, Jason Helgemoe, served as vice chair on the Hmong College Prep board.

Bethel has directed the board to spend 90 days making numerous changes at the school, including dividing superintendent and chief financial officer into two separate positions and hiring a financial consultant who reports directly to the authorizer.

In addition, Bethel is “recommending” the board fire Hang and replace her with someone with no prior ties to Hmong College Prep and for the board to appoint a chairperson who is not employed by the school; the current chair is a teacher.

If you are wondering why there is a Hmong charter school, Minnesota has a long-established practice of authorizing racially and ethnically segregated schools. Defenders of the practice say the children are more comfortable going to school with children of the same background.

I remember when Southerners said the same about segregated schools in the 1950s.

When was the last time your school had millions to invest in the market?

Denis Smith went to graduate school in West Virginia and served as an elementary and middle school principal, director of curriculum, and director of federal programs in the suburban school system adjacent to the state capital. He subsequently moved to Ohio, where he was in charge of overseeing the state’s burgeoning and scandal-ridden charter sector. He wrote a warning to West Virginia, published in the state’s major newspaper, about its new charter law and what is likely to happen. It won’t be pretty.

He said that charters will not be accountable. They will divert money from the state’s public schools, while doing whatever it takes (campaign contributions?) to avoid academic and financial accountability.

He pointed out that the people of West Virginia will lose local control of their schools, as national charter chains move in.

Consider the irony that the leader of the founding coalition of the proposed West Virginia Academy is a professor of accounting. But then we should also know that, when it comes to all things related to charter school accounting and accountability, nothing adds up. Add to that the fact that these schools are free from many sections of state law, including school boards that are directly elected by the public. For example, in Ohio, where I live, charter schools are exempt from 140 sections of the state code.

Keep in mind that charter boards are hand-picked, selected by the companies that manage the school, where school governance by design is not accountable to the voters…

As a former resident of West Virginia and a school administrator in West Virginia and Ohio, it is my hope that the citizens of the Mountain State might learn from the mistakes of Ohio, which bears the distinction of having a refuse pile containing the wreckage of nearly 300 closed charter schools, some of which received funding but never opened, emitting a rancid, overpowering odor, a byproduct of bad public policy.

And speaking about waste, Ohio has spent more than $4 billion on the charter school experiment so far, an exercise that is hell-bent on using public funds for private purposes while skirting transparency and accountability requirements.

Smith asks the people of the state:

Are West Virginians, exploited for generations by energy companies, in favor of selling off their public schools?

Republicans have whipped up a frenzy in the states and in the conservative media that they control about “critical race theory.” They are blowing up the issue because it benefits their party in two ways:

First, it distracts public attention from the violent and unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. They want to pretend that day—where their own lives were at risk—never happened. It was like “a normal tourist visit,” as one House Republican member said. It was a day of infamy that should never be forgotten, but Republicans are trying to bury it.

Second, the CRT dispute is the kind of cultural wedge issue that fires up the Republican base. They cheer as legislatures pass laws that would criminalize teaching about racism and sexism, because some students might feel bad to learn what really happened in the past.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a celebrated journalist who has won major awards for her work. The current controversy was launched in reaction to “The 1619 Project,” which she organized and to which she contributed the introductory essay about the resilience of racism. It waspublished in a full issue of The New York Times magazine.

You know the story by now about how the journalism school at the University of North Carolina offered her the Knight Chair of Race and Investigative Journalism. But when the faculty decision reached the board of the university, they decreed that—unlike her white predecessors—she would not be offered tenure.

In response to ongoing protests by students and faculty, the board took another vote and agreed (9-4) to reverse their original decision and to offer her tenure. Hannah-Jones rejected their grudging offer and will instead create a journalism center at Howard University, the most prominent Historically Black University in the nation.

Mercedes Schneider posts here the story behind the scene, as written by Joe Killian of NC Policy Watch. Killian fills in the blanks about the influence on the original decision by Walter Hussman, the wealthy and conservative magnate who donated $25 million to UNC for the journalism school, which was renamed the Hussman School of Journalism. Initial reports suggested that he did not use his influence to affect the board’s decisions. Killian says otherwise.