Accountability Betsy DeVos Charter Schools Education Industry Education Reform Fraud KIPP Charter Schools Privatization U.S. Department of Education

Carol Burris: Federal Charter School Program is a Slush Fund

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Back in March 2019, Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant released a study of the federal Charter Schools Program on behalf of the Network for Public Education.. That study, “Asleep at the Wheel,” found that about a third of the charters that received federal grants in the $440 million program either never opened or closed soon after opening. The amount of money wasted was about $1 billion over several years. The Department of Education failed to monitor wherevthe Money was going and how it was spent.

Burris has been analyzing states that received federal charter money and has concluded that the initial estimates were understated. In the states she has reviewed, 40% of the charters were failures. Some had no name. Some were not even charters.

The extent of waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal CSP is appalling, as is the ED department’s failure to pay attention to where the money goes.

The initial impulse for the CSP, created during the Clinton administration, was to jumpstart innovation. Now, it is a slush fund for Friends of Betsy and a ready supplier of millions to big corporate charter chains like KIPP (which recently got a federal check for $86 million) and IDEA (which has collected $225 million in two years). Neither of these corporate behemoths are start-ups. Neither is needy.

Congress should eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program. It feels no need, other than greed.

Next time you meet a candidate at a town hall, ask him or her if they will pledge to eliminate this wasteful slush fund.

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