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Perhaps you recall when Betsy DeVos testified at her Senate hearing about her worthiness to be Secretary of Education. Among her most memorable lines was her fulsome praise of virtual charter schools. This was both sad and hilarious, coming as it did more than a year after the Walton-funded CREDO at Stanford(students in these schools lost the equivalent of 72 days in reading and a full year in math).
Over the past few years, there have been several major virtual charter school scandals involving the loss of many millions of dollars (the EPIC scandal in Oklahoma, the Pennsylvania CyberCharter School scandal, the A3 scandal in California, the ECOT scandal in Ohio).
Now Steve Hinnefeld.
A Hamilton County court hearing this week may determine whether Indiana taxpayers have a chance to recover $154 million from two virtual charter schools and their leaders and business partners.
The hearing, set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before Hamilton Superior Court Judge Michael Casati, concerns motions to dismiss a lawsuit to recover charter school funds that were allegedly obtained by fraud or improperly spent.
Attorney General Todd Rokitaon behalf of the state. Defendants include the schools — Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy — and several of their officers and employees. Also named are businesses that were affiliated with the schools.
The lawsuit relies on, the findings of which were released in early 2020. Auditors found that the online schools inflated their enrollment or failed to ensure students were being taught, resulting in overpayment of more than $68 million by the state. Auditors also identified more than $85 million in improper payments to vendors and businesses.
The schools closed in 2019 after their authorizer, Daleville School Corp. revoked their charter. The previous year, their claimed enrollment peaked at more than 7,000 students.
Problems with the schools came to light in 2017, whenpoor test scores, abysmal graduation rates and hefty payments to businesses connected to the school’s founder. Indiana Virtual School employed only one teacher per 200 students and spent just 10% of its funds on instruction, Chalkbeat found.
But the schools. They employed a state legislator as a consultant and had a retired state appeals court judge on the school board. Businesses affiliated with the schools gave $140,000 to Indiana Republican election campaigns. The schools paid a lobbying firm $300,000.
When will state legislators stop pumping money into these money pits?