The following article was written by Valarie Strauss for The Washington Post.
The Education Department has for more than 10 years poured in excess of $3 billion into the creation and operation of charter schools, but according to a new audit by the agency’s own inspector general’s office, it has failed in some cases to provide adequate oversight and as a result has put its own grants at risk.
The audit, titled, “Nationwide Assessment of Charter and Education Management Organizations” and conducted by the department’s inspector general (see below), looked at the relationship that several dozen charter schools have had with their own charter management organizations (CMOs). It found, among other things that there were “internal control weaknesses” related to the schools’ relationships to their CMOs that were so severe that the department’s own program objectives were at “significant risk.” And it says:
The Department’s internal controls were insufficient to mitigate the significant financial, lack of accountability and performance risks that charter school relationships with CMOs pose to Department program objectives.
The newly released report comes just as the department announced $245 million in new grants to state educational agencies and CMOs under its Charter Schools Program, which funds the creation and expansion of charters around the country. The Charter Schools Program has invested more than $3 billion into these schools since 1995, helping more than 2,500 charter schools open. The Education Department’s announcement of the new grants says: