"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Driving Schools into the Ground, One Charter at a Time

Despite all the talk about accountability and the relentless assault of the public school system by charter advocates and their wealthy funders, real oversight of charter schools is 1) severely lacking and 2) doesn't have any real power to regulate these private versions of public schools.

Let me introduce you to Chase Academy for Communication Arts, which, despite it's name, is not affiliated with the banking giant. That didn't keep the head of the school, Celia Jones, from treating the school's budget like a credit card: in April of 2007, she was suspended for an assortment of violations related to shoddy finances. But the most egregious abuse was charging students that qualified for reduced lunch prices almost double the amount they should have paid ($1 instead of $.60 - the charter folks sure know how to treat the poor well, don't they!).

Just six months later, the school came under fire again, this time due to nepotism, more financial mishandling, the hiring of a board member as a contractor, and the school's lack of nonprofit status (just like the Imagine Schools folks).

At some point in time, Jones departed the school for greener pastures and a new principal was brought in to right the ship. Serious corrections never panned out, and the school's authorizer, Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio, Inc, released annual reports showing the school was not up to par.

And just today, the school announced that it will be closing, and closing soon - tomorrow, in fact, which gives parents and students all of one weekend to adjust to this major mid-year change. Say what you like about charters or public schools, but mid-year closures clearly does not serve the interest of students, parents, or teachers. In this case, the school will close because their attendance numbers were greatly inflated, although the Ohio DOE spokesperson claims they don't suspect fraud (seriously?). 10TV promises to provide updates as the investigation into how the numbers were so far off.

From 10TV News in Ohio:
Charter School Abruptly Closes, Leaving Parents in Lurch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An east side charter school plans to close its doors unexpectedly on Friday, after the state cuts its funding.

The Chase Academy for Communication Arts is expected to close at 5 p.m. Friday, 10TV's Andy Hirsch reported.

Some students were sent home with a letter explaining that the school is shutting down after the state stops its funding because of a mix up in attendance figures.

"I don't know what I'm going to do at this point. I'm really shocked," said parent Laretha Haynes.

Haynes, from Canal Winchester, said she had no indication the school would be closing. She put her 9-year-old daughter in the school because of childcare issues.

"I'm upset," Haynes said. "I'm upset because now my daughter doesn't have a school to go to and I live all the way out in Canal Winchester and I don't know what I'm going to do."

The state is cutting off money to Chase Academy because it was over reporting attendance, which is how school funding in calculated, Hirsch reported.

When the error was caught and corrected, the state realized the school already received a full-year's worth of funding.

"We don't have a full picture of what of exactly what happened at this point," said Ohio Department of Education spokesman Scott Blake. "We are doing a review of their enrollments tomorrow. And so you know, maybe then we will have a better picture of how exactly everything unfolded."

Chase Academy staff will be on hand Monday to help answer questions parents have, Hirsch reported.

Most of the academy's students live in the Columbus City School district and CCS said it will welcome those students.

Several state audits of Chase Academy show a history of money mismanagement and the department of education said it will look into how the enrollment figures were so far off, but they do not suspect any fraud.

Watch 10TV News HD and refresh 10TV.com for additional information.

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