The District of Columbia
In February 2015, the DC Public Charter School Board unanimously voted to revoke the charter of the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School.
The DC Attorney General is suing the founder, Kent Amos, for diverting public education funding to a private company for his personal profit. That private management company paid Amos more than $2.5 million over the last 2 years. Over the past 10 years, the school has paid the private entity more than $14 million and, while costs to the private company declined over that time, management fees rose. The charter board’s oversight report showed “no pattern of fiscal mismanagement.” Members of the DC Public Charter School Board have described their limited ability to oversee for-profit management companies, which face no requirement to disclose salaries or other pertinent information.
In April 2014, Steven Ingersoll, founder of Grand Traverse Academy, was convicted on federal fraud and tax evasion. He did not report $2 million of taxable income in 2009 and 2010. The school’s audit revealed a $2.3 million prepayment to Ingersoll’s school management company. The school’s later decision to write down $1.6 million of the loan put the school in a deficit position for the first time. Ingersoll then used half of a $.8 million loan for school construction to pay down some of his debt to the school.13 After the founder’s ouster, his daughter-in-law continued to handle the finances of the school.
In January 2015, the state auditor released a report of the results of unannounced visits by inspectors to 30 charter schools. In nearly half of the schools, the school-provided headcount was significantly higher than the auditors’ headcount. Schools are funded based on headcount, so these inflated figures amount to taxpayer dollars siphoned away from students. Among the seven schools with the most extreme variances between reported head count and the auditors’ headcount, almost 900 students were missing, at a cost of roughly $5.7 million.16 Auditors identified eight other schools with troubling, but less significant variances. In June 2014, a grand jury indicted the superintendent and 2 board members of Arise! Academy in Dayton of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for awarding a “lucrative” consulting contract to a North Carolina-based company. The contract was worth $420,919 and the charter personnel received kickbacks in the form of cash, travel, and payments to a separate business.
In July 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District performed a forensic audit of Magnolia Public Schools. They found that the charter-school chain used education dollars to pay for six nonemployees’ immigration costs and could not justify $3 million in expenses over four years to outsource curriculum development, professional training, and human resources services that the school itself reported doing.