Education Reform

Denis Smith: Waste, Fraud, and Corruption in the Charter Industry

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Denis Smith, retired school administrator who worked in Ohio’s charter school office, writes here about the stench coming from the charter industry, not only in Ohio, but in other states.



Imagine for a moment that you’re in a California television studio and Alex Trebek turns to you and two other contestants in a Final Jeopardy! segment. The famed host asks: “Name the five most commonly used words uttered about the charter school industry.”



If you answered “Will the defendant please rise?” you might have the potential to be a Jeopardy! champion. On the other hand, you may not have to be a Jeopardy! high-performer to know that as scandals in the for-profit education world continue to pile up, the number of charter school industry culprits and defendants continues to grow, as sure as there is stink on…



Well, gentle readers, since we are all in polite company, perhaps that simile can be completed privately. But yes, malodorous conditions aside, it’s quite clear that there are plenty of defendants in the proliferating, malodorous charter school industry. Plenty.



As we saw recently, there’s something about voodoo accounting that seems to be part of the DNA of charters. Here in Ohio and across the country, stories abound of treasurers mishandling millions of Ohio tax dollars, and management companies buying property and issuing leases to the school at exorbitant rates, with one Columbus school paying 81% of its state aid in rent. Add to this the sad tale about board members and school leaders of a Cleveland charter school that were indicted for payments to shell companies set up to be the repositories of state funds.



All the while, charter school scandals and corruption continue unabated. Everywhere.


Smith recounts the latest charter school scandals. Taxpayer funds wasted; schools closed; profits for entrepreneurs; inflated enrollments; lease deals; kickbacks.

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