Financial Fraud, Malfeasance, and Ineptitude Plague Federal Government Charter Schools Program

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Source: Our Schools

Reports have revealed an alarming level of financial waste (an estimated $1.17 billion in federal tax dollars), fraud, and abuse in the charter school industry that resulted from the Charter Schools Program’s poor oversight of spending and a slipshod review process for grant approval. Meanwhile, charter advocates continue to lobby for their funding.

Credit: Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages https://images.all4ed.org/high-school-girl-thinking
Jeff Bryant is a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network.
This article was produced by Our Schools.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In 1994, during the administration of then-President Bill Clinton, Congress created the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) to give money directly to charter schools and to state education agencies and charter school-related organizations to distribute to new, existing, or proposed charters. For decades, CSP enjoyed bipartisan support as its funding stream grew from $4,539,548 at its inception to its high-water mark of $440 million in 2019, where funding levels have stayed since.

During the administration of Barack Obama, CSP enjoyed its best years as Obama made charter school expansions a key qualification for states competing to obtain grants from Obama’s signature Race to the Top program. During the Obama years, the percentage of students attending charter schools grew from 3 percent to 6 percent, and in 2015, the U.S. Department of Education issued a report stating that between the 2006-07 and 2013–2014 school years, CSP funded nearly 60 percent of all charter schools in the country and, over the course of its history, had funded over 40 percent of all operational charter schools, serving 1 million students.

But beginning in 2014, a series of reports gradually began to reveal an alarming level of financial waste, fraud, and abuse in the charter school industry that resulted from CSP grants, CSP’s poor oversight of its spending, and the program’s slipshod review process for approving charter school grants.

In 2015, a report published by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) looked for evidence of how CSP grant money was being spent and found that the information was often “severely lacking.”

According to the report, the federal government, state governments, and charter authorizers generally did not provide the public with ready information about how federal funds for charters had been spent. Attempts to trace federal grant money to recipients were apt to encounter “substantial obstruction” from states reluctant to reveal how charter money was spent and how state governments handled charter oversight.

In examining charter recipients of federal grants in just 12 states, CMD investigators found millions in federal grant money going both to charter schools that were closed after brief periods of service and to “ghost” charter schools that never opened.

The report authors blamed the lack of oversight of charters on federal and state lawmakers who favored “flexibility” for these schools rather than accountability to the public. “That flexibility has allowed an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools,” CMD argued.

Shortly after the CMD report, in September 2016, an audit by the Department of Education’s Inspector General’s Office found that the department had failed to provide adequate oversight of some of its relationships with charter management organizations.

Then in 2019, a series of reports by the Network for Public Education (NPE), the first of which I co-authored,[1] and a number of articles based on NPE’s research, led to a more definitive assessment of CSP’s contribution to the financial waste, fraud, and mismanagement that have become endemic in the charter school industry.

Asleep at the Wheel[edit | edit source]

NPE’s April 2019 report “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride” provided a detailed accounting of how charter schools have scammed CSP for up to $1 billion in wasted grant money that went to charters that never opened or opened for only brief periods of time before being shut down for mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment, or fraud. The report also found many of the charters receiving grant awards that managed to stay open fell far short of the grant program’s avowed mission to create “high-quality” schools for disadvantaged students.

According to the report, of the schools awarded grants directly from the department between 2009 and 2016, nearly one in four either never opened or shut their doors. The federal program’s own analysis from 2006 to 2014 of its direct and state pass-through funded programs found that nearly one out of three awardees were not in operation by the end of 2015.

Despite these findings, the federal program continued to award charters with grant money, increasing the total amount awarded to over $4 billion. Based on the department’s accounting of the award money, and its own 2015 study that concluded one in three of the schools awarded grants had closed, never opened, or were not yet opened, the likely amount of money scammed by bogus charter operators topped $1 billion, NPE found.

In California alone, the state with the most charter schools, the failure rate for federal grant-awarded charters was nearly four in 10 schools. Of the schools that received CSP money but were not open at the time of the report, 61 were “ghost” schools—that is, they received money but never even began.

The report featured an astonishing array of charter operators who ripped off American taxpayers with impunity, and generally suffered no adverse consequences for their acts. The scams varied from the brazenly open to the artfully deceptive.

Delaware[edit | edit source]

For example, in 2013, Innovative Schools Development Corporation applied for a three-year start-up grant eventually totaling $525,000 to open Delaware Met Charter School in Wilmington, Delaware.

The school didn’t open until August of 2015, and it closed just five months later in January 2016. The state committee that recommended closing found the school struggled to maintain a safe campus, used lesson plans that didn’t fit the state’s academic standards, and was out of compliance on all 59 of its Individualized Education Plans for its students with disabilities. Of the three-year $525,000 CSP grant money it had won, it received $350,000 total despite only operating for five months.

Innovative Schools Development Corporation was still working to get more grants from CSP. In 2015, the company applied for and received a three-year grant totaling $600,000 to support the Early College High School charter schools at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware.[2] Then in 2016, Innovative Schools applied for and received a three-year federal grant totaling $609,000 to open the Delaware STEM Academy charter school.

In the meantime, while the company was applying for and receiving grant money from the federal government, no one seemed to notice that its schools were quickly failing.

Following the January 2016 closure of Delaware Met, in June 2016, Delaware’s Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Secretary of Education both recommended revoking Delaware STEM Academy’s charter two months ahead of its planned opening, due to low enrollment and uncertain funding caused by an overreliance on external grants. Local news reports on the demise of the school noticed that New Castle County already had a heavy concentration of charter schools—20 of 27 charter schools statewide. Yet in its review of the application, the U.S. Department of Education’s reviewers complimented the application for its “detailed management plan including objectives, measures, targets.”

Another school, the Early College High School, pledged in its application it would have a student enrollment that is 24.7 percent “economically disadvantaged,” yet the school was located in a district with a student population that was 70 percent economically disadvantaged. In other words, what was supposed to be a lifeline out of poverty for students more closely resembled a white flight academy.

In the meantime, Innovative Schools Development Corporation did fine, as it was budgeted to receive, just from the STEM Academy deal, $247,500 of the federal grant funds for management fees, with $147,500 coming in the first year alone.

In 2019, the Innovative Schools Development Corporation website was taken down, and the company no longer exists.

How Does Charter School Waste Happen?[edit | edit source]

Much of the fraud and malfeasance linked to CSP was due to the fact that in many ways charter scams are often inside operations.

According to the NPE report, the Department of Education uses a slipshod process to conduct reviews of charter school grant applications that allows applicants to get away with making false and misleading claims about their academic programs.

The review process does not allow the verification of applicants’ claims, and reviewers are instructed to accept what applicants have written as fact. And reviewers are not publicly identified by the department and are likely to be biased because of the department’s requirement that they have “a solid understanding of the ‘charter school movement.’

Many of the worst abuses took place in the grant program that sends money to states. When state education agencies pass the federal funding on to charter schools, there is generally little to no accountability for how the money is used.

The subgrantee schools often never open, or they close quickly, and the schools often blatantly discriminate, commit outright fraud, and engage in related-party transactions that result in private individuals and companies pocketing huge sums of money at taxpayer expense. But once the monies are given to the state, the Department of Education maintains a “hands-off” policy.

Texas[edit | edit source]

One of these subgrantee charter schools made national headlines in 2019, when the New York Times reported about East Austin College Prep in Texas, where raccoons and rats invade offices and classrooms. When it rained, the roof of the main building leaked.

Yet for all this, the secondary school paid almost $900,000 in annual rent to its landlord who is also its founder, Southwest Key Programs, the nation’s largest provider of shelters for migrant children. The federal charter grant program gave the school a grant to start the school through its Texas state grant.

Brandishing the report’s findings, members of Congress repeatedly confronted[3] then-U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the estimated $1 billion wasted on schools that had never opened or opened and quickly closed. DeVos dismissed the findings and accused the report authors of having a “political agenda against charter schools.”

Still Asleep at the Wheel[edit | edit source]

In December 2019, NPE issued a more detailed examination[4] of waste in the government’s charter grant program and concluded the $1 billion figure was indeed likely not correct—it was an underestimate.

The report “Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste” calculated approximately $1.17 billion in federal funding had been spent on charters that either never opened or that opened and have since shut down.

Much of the added waste the study found in the charter program came from the researchers’ findings that way more of these charters have closed or never opened than originally estimated. Based on its second passthrough of the data, NPE upped the failure rate of taxpayer-funded charter startups from 30 percent to 37 percent.

The first “Asleep at the Wheel” report, admittedly, “barely skimmed the surface” of the waste in the federal charter program. It also called attention to warnings from the education department’s own inspector general that the charter grant program was poorly monitored, and it scrutinized the application process to get the grants, noting that applicants frequently gave false or misleading information about their schools and programs, and application reviewers did little to no research on individuals and organizations asking for the money.

Waste, State by State[edit | edit source]

NPE’s second report provided a more thorough, state-by-state accounting of federal funds given to grantees from 2006 to 2014, the only data window the department has made available. (Astonishingly, for the first decade of the program, from 1995 to 2005, there is no record of how charter school grant money from the federal government—over $1 billion—was spent.)

Based on the failure rate of schools in the publicly available dataset, the amount of federal tax dollars wasted on charter schools that never opened or quickly closed is likely $1.17 billion.

Although the overall rate of failed charter projects was 37 percent, in some states the rate of failure was much higher. States where the failure rate of charters receiving federal grants exceeded 50 percent included Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia, and Washington (state).

The amount of waste in taxpayer funds varied considerably from state to state.

In Georgia, 23 million federal dollars were wasted when 75 percent of the charter schools awarded government grants failed. The percentage of defunct charter school grantees in Florida matched the national average at 37 percent, resulting in $34.2 million in wasted taxpayer funds. In Michigan that failure rate was over 44 percent, costing taxpayers $21 million, and in Louisiana, $25.5 million went down the drain as 46 percent of the charter startups failed. But the most scandalous waste was in California where nearly $103 million was awarded to charters that never opened or have shut down—a 37 percent failure rate.

Details about the amount of money wasted on charter schools that never opened, which the report called “ghost schools,” were eye-opening.

NPE identified 537 charter schools in total that received public-financed government grants and never opened for even one day. According to the education department’s data, those schools received, or were due to receive, a total of $45.5 million.

Twenty-eight states had at least one charter ghost school, but California again was among the worst, where 61 charter operators pledged to open schools but never did, wasting $8.36 million. Michigan topped the list, though, where 72 grant recipients never opened their schools. Over $7.7 million was wasted there.

Public Funds, Private Hands[edit | edit source]

Drawing from records NPE obtained through a FOIA request to Michigan’s state education department, the report spotlighted some egregious examples of how money given to start new charter schools never made it to classrooms, teachers, and students.

Hundreds of thousands of education dollars went instead to the charter developers themselves, to for-profit consulting and education management organizations, to lease arrangements with school building owners, and to purchases of computers, printers, and other equipment that was never accounted for or given back to school districts when the schools failed to open.

One story the report recounted was how a private consultant and her company hopped from one defunct charter school in Michigan to another, taking advantage of federal grants every time, to extract tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from schools that never opened or were open for only brief periods of time.

Another example: a Michigan couple who received a $100,00 “planning grant” to open a new charter used the grant to pay themselves $53,920 and purchase laptops, a printer, and Wi-Fi services worth $4,679.11. The school never opened.

NPE’s report also found substantial funds from the federal charter school grant program went to for-profit businesses even though the program’s guidelines limit grant awards to only nonprofit organizations.

A total of $124,929,017 in federal start-up funds in the education department’s database of grant awardees went to 357 schools that were run by major for-profit chains.

How did this happen? As the report noted, only one state, Arizona, technically allowed charter schools to be incorporated as for-profit corporations, yet 34 states allowed for-profit management companies to contract with charter schools. These contracts created a convoluted system in which the charter served as a passthrough for the for-profit corporation to make money from the school by providing staffing, curriculum, classroom furniture, computer equipment, and software, and, in many cases, serve as the school’s landlord.

One example the report delved into was a chain of charter schools in Florida that were connected to White Hat Management Corporation, a now-defunct Ohio-based, for-profit school management company that used to be in five states.

Nine of the schools in the Florida charter chain received grants from the federal government ranging from $25,000 to $705,696. All the schools have closed, but nearly all that money likely ended up in White Hat accounts.

Some of the schools paid 97 percent of their income to White Hat, including to a separate White Hat real estate company for lease payments on buildings owned by White Hat. When White Hat also went out of business, any remaining assets the company had were sold to other privately operated charter management groups, even if those assets had been purchased with public money.

Drawing from the NPE reports, deeper dives into how CSP funds have been spent in two states, Louisiana and North Carolina, raised even more concerns about the waste, fraud, and abuse that resulted from the federal program.

Funding Serial Failures in Louisiana[edit | edit source]

When Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, said Hurricane Katrina was the “best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” he was no doubt referring in part to how the storm and its aftermath led to the spread of charter schools across the city.

But if he had looked more closely before making his remark (he eventually apologized for his poor word choice), he would have noticed some of the new charter schools being created in New Orleans were already failing.

The very first charter school created in the post-Katrina era to close was Free Academy, which shuttered in early 2009—well before Duncan made his remarks—due to financial problems, lack of academic progress, and disputes with the school’s for-profit management company.

After Free Academy closed, many of the students scrambling to find new schools likely ended up in the Crocker Arts & Technology School, another charter school, which opened in the fall in the same building. But that school proved to be a false promise too when, on a Thursday evening in early December, parents learned Crocker had to close, literally overnight, due to its unsafe building.

The century-old structure was close to collapse, a condition that existed no doubt when the school was Free Academy and when Crocker decided to occupy the building. Officials at both schools either didn’t know or knew but didn’t bother to warn parents their children were in an unsafe building.

Duncan should have been concerned about these failed charters not only because of the potential harm the schools posed to students but also because the federal government helped to fund the schools.

In 2006, barely a year after Katrina’s devastation, Duncan’s predecessor Margaret Spellings awarded $24 million to Louisiana to create charter schools, primarily in New Orleans.

The grant, which came from CSP, was used by Louisiana to fund individual charters, mostly in New Orleans, including $283,847 awarded to Free Academy and $600,000 to Crocker, according to data unearthed by NPE.

After two more relocations, Crocker would eventually close for good in 2014.

Another reason Duncan should have been more inquisitive about how charter schools had used federal grant money in Louisiana was because his department, during the first year under his leadership, awarded the state yet another huge grant—this time totaling $25,576,222, mostly to bolster the state’s existing charters and start new ones in Baton Rouge.

According to the April 2019 NPE report, between 2006 and 2014, of the 110 Louisiana charters that received the money, at least 51 (46 percent) were closed. Some may have never opened at all, but because the Louisiana Education Department did not provide a list of closed schools, that figure was unknown at the time of the report. The total amount of money given to those closed and never-opened schools was at least $23,819,839.00.

While the numbers alone were startling and a cause for concern, individual examples of charters in Louisiana that received CSP money and then closed threw into further doubt the prudence of using federal seed money to spread schools that open and close, repeatedly, and fund charter organizations that churn through districts and neighborhoods without any obvious regard for what parents and local officials want.

One of the examples was Benjamin Mays Prep School in New Orleans, which received a $600,000 CSP grant. Mays Prep had long-standing academic issues and persistent budget shortfalls. The school had to move to a different building in 2012 and then lost that location in 2014 when its charter wasn’t renewed and a different charter moving into the space refused to enroll the Mays students. The school closed officially in 2014.

Another New Orleans charter, Miller McCoy, received a $600,000 CSP grant but eventually closed in 2014 after “a long downward spiral,” according to a local news source. The charter school’s two founders left in 2012 under alleged ethics allegations, and the school had a series of unsuccessful leaders after that. An “F” academic rating from the state seemed to have been the final straw.

The school had promised to be equivalent to a prestigious all-male private prep school in New Orleans, only free. Its closure left the teachers and remaining students and families with “a sense of loss, sadness, a grieving for what could have been,” reported a different local news outlet.

Another New Orleans charter, Gentilly Terrace, received a $600,000 CSP grant. The school was operated by a charter management group, New Beginnings Schools Foundation, that was cited for being out of compliance with several federal laws, including misdirection of federal funds for Title I schools—­money earmarked for high-poverty students. New Beginnings also had chronic problems with employee turnover in its schools and non-transparent practices by its board of directors.

Gentilly Terrace closed in 2014 with a “D” rating from the state’s academics report card. In 2019, the CEO of New Beginnings resigned amid allegations of falsifying public records and allowing one of its three remaining schools to engage in grade-fixing.

CSP grants that were awarded to schools in Baton Rouge often led to the same results.

When the Recovery School District that transformed New Orleans started taking over “low-performing” Baton Rouge schools in 2008, one of the first seven schools taken over and handed to charter operators was Glen Oaks Middle School. Glen Oaks received $772,750 from CSP.

By 2013, the takeover effort was already “rebooting,” and Glen Oaks had closed.

Some Louisiana charter school CSP grant recipients have fared no better than the New Orleans and Baton Rouge charters that received the grants.

Tallulah Charter School, which was awarded a CSP grant of $75,000, was threatened with shutdown in 2018 for persistent low academic performance and testing errors. The school was closed in 2021 after being taken over by an online-only charter operator.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published an examination of how states with charter schools that closed accounted for federal grant funds. Louisiana was included in the audit because it was the state with the highest ratio of closed charter schools to total charter schools.

The audit found charter schools in Louisiana that received federal money and then closed likely had widespread violations of federal laws and regulations for closing out their grants, disposing of property purchased with federal funds, and ensuring student information and records had been protected and maintained.

In its comments included at the end of the report, the department did not explicitly agree or disagree with the findings but stated it “did not consider charter school closures to be a risk to federal funds” and that OIG’s recommendations “would be inconsistent with the federal role in education.” The department asked instead for “a single recommendation that recognizes the balance between federal and state responsibility for the oversight of charter schools.”

The legacy of the federal government’s charter school grants in Louisiana was not merely the waste of precious education funds, but also the real human consequences of spreading makeshift charter programs that throw communities into confusion, distress, and a sense of betrayal.

Funding White Flight in North Carolina[edit | edit source]

In June 2018, when the North Carolina state legislature enacted a law that allowed four affluent, majority-white suburbs to secede from the racially diverse Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, or CMS, and establish their own municipal charter schools, with admission priority given to students living in the local communities, critics called the law “a new way to effectively resegregate public education” and “a return to the days when some whites in the South resisted the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling.”

None of the four majority-white suburbs around Charlotte actually attempted to break away from CMS and sequester their children in predominantly white charter schools, but an obscure federal government program helped them resegregate education, nevertheless.

According to an analysis by the NPE, published in the Washington Post in 2021,[5] a five-year grant of $26.6 million from CSP was awarded to North Carolina in 2018 and was used to finance “white-flight academies,” including existing and new charter schools in the majority-white communities that tried to break away from CMS.

Referring to her organization’s analysis, NPE executive director Carol Burris explained that North Carolina used funds from its federal government grant to finance charter schools that had a “significant overrepresentation of white students or a significant underrepresentation of Black students compared with the population of the public school district in which they are located.”

Specifically, of the 42 charter schools that “received CSP grants via the North Carolina Department of Education,” 30 had reported demographic information, and among those schools, more than one-third (11) had much higher percentages of white students compared to public schools in their home districts, Burris wrote in the 2021 report. Among those 11 schools with racial imbalances, four schools were located in or near two of the four majority-white communities that tried to split off from CMS. Two more grant recipients were also in or near these majority-white communities but had yet (as of June 2021) to report attendance data.

“The purpose of the award was to support ‘high-quality schools focused on meeting the needs of educationally disadvantaged students,’” Burris told Our Schools in an email in 2021. But her organization’s analysis found that “most” of the charter schools that the state awarded federal money to “have served and still serve as white-flight and affluence-flight alternatives to the local public schools,” she added in her email.

When the bill allowing communities to secede from CMS and start their own charters was first proposed in 2017, proponents claimed it was about improving education through “more parental choice,” the Carolina Journal reported.

Opponents argued that should the bill become law, which it eventually did, it would “undermine” the efforts being undertaken in CMS to have more racially mixed schools, according to NC Newsline. The district, which was once “lauded as an example of what successful integration could look like,” according to a 2016 article in the New Yorker, had more recently reverted to its segregated past due to a series of court decisions and actions by state and local governments.

Opponents of the new law also pointed to clear evidence that the expanding charter school sector in the state was already increasing segregation, and they have called for “a really honest conversation about what charters are designed to do and what they’re actually doing,” said Justin Perry, a Charlotte parent and chair of OneMECK, an advocacy group that seeks to provide fair and equal education opportunity to all CMS students.

It’s hard to believe that officials in the U.S. Department of Education were unaware of this debate when they were weighing in on the decision of whether or not to award North Carolina with a charter school grant.

The evidence linking charter schools to increased racial segregation was well known, particularly in the South, and there was a significant body of research showing that allowing smaller suburban communities to break away from large metropolitan districts was also a contributor to racial segregation.

Further, it was well known that charter schools in North Carolina were helping to effectively resegregate the state by enrolling students who were generally much whiter and wealthier than the public schools in their host districts.

As NC Newsline reported, the four suburbs targeted to leave CMS and start their own charters—Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, and Mint Hill—were overwhelmingly white—85 percent, 77 percent, 78 percent, and 73 percent, respectively, as of 2018—compared to CMS with just 28.6 percent white enrollment as of the 2016–2017 school year.

So, for the federal CSP to award North Carolina what some considered to be an overly generous grant shortly after the state had enacted a new law allowing white suburbs to peel away from CMS seemed to be either a naïve or an intentionally opportunistic interpretation.

Further, North Carolina state officials who divvied up the federal grant money to individual charter schools, at best, seemed not to have closely examined applications for the funds.

In her email, Burris said, “As we [NPE] went through the North Carolina subgrant applications, we saw the same problems we have seen before with CSP grants. Several applicants either falsified or cherry-picked the data they shared.”

“For example, the Hobgood Charter School, a former voucher academy, reported their percentage of economically disadvantaged students [in 2020] was 66.96 percent [in their subgrant application],” Burris continued. “However, according to the North Carolina State Report Card, the percentage [of economically disadvantaged students] during the year Hobgood applied [for a subgrant in 2019–2020] was only 18.7 percent.”

In short, “If you could write a good narrative, you [got the money],” Burris said.

One of the first subgrant recipients, which received a $250,000 award in 2019, was Bonnie Cone Classical Academy, located within a 10-minute drive from the center of Huntersville. The charter school was disproportionately white (44.2 percent) for the 2020–2021 school year, compared to CMS, where white students comprised only 25.8 percent of total student enrollment that year.

A 2020 grant recipient, with an award of $700,000, is the Community School of Davidson, located near Cornelius. As Burris wrote in the Washington Post, the charter school converted from a formerly private school, which operated from a Baptist church. “The year [2020] it received its grant, 84 percent of its students were white,” she noted. In 2021, the school was still predominantly white (82.4 percent) and only 3.4 percent Black and 6.2 percent Hispanic. Nearby Cornelius Elementary School was significantly more racially mixed, with a student population that was 63.7 percent white, 12.6 percent Black, and 15 percent Hispanic as of 2021.

Another 2020 recipient of a $700,000 grant, Bradford Preparatory School, was located less than a 20-minute drive from the center of Huntersville. In 2021, the school was majority white (50.1 percent), and only 28 percent of the students were Black. Contrast that to nearby North Mecklenburg High School, which was 59.8 percent Black and had only 9.4 percent white students.

Lakeside Charter Academy, located at a Cornelius address, received a $600,000 grant in 2020. The school had all the appearances of an elite private school with only 213 students, spread out across K-8 grade levels, who were majority (51.6 percent) white,[6] with lunch service catered by a local restaurant; although, the evaluation description of the school’s grant application stated the school intended to provide “a free or reduced lunch program through the ‘Apple a Day’ catering company.”

Two more grant recipients—Telra Institute charter school, which received a $400,000 grant, and Huntersville Charter High School, which also got a $400,000 grant—were in predominantly white Charlotte suburban locations.

Telra Institute was located in Matthews at the time of its grant but moved to South Charlotte. The school’s state report card for 2022–2023 showed only 8.6 percent of its students were economically disadvantaged. Other school data sites reported the school’s students were overwhelmingly white and Asian.

Huntersville Charter High School changed its name to Aspire Trade High School to align with the Aspire Foundation that operates the school. The school opened its application process in December 2023 for the 2024–2025 school year, according to its website, and as of March 2024 it had yet to report any student demographic information.

While the federal government was funding charter schools that were resegregating these communities, local opposition used the democratic process to stymie the effort to resegregate CMS through breakaway charters.

Study commissions created by local governing boards in Huntersville and Cornelius to examine how their communities would use charter schools to secede from CMS came away with divergent conclusions. While the Huntersville commission recommended seceding from CMS and forming a municipal charter or partnering with existing charters, the Cornelius commission presented pros and cons of this move in such a way that it persuaded the mayor to express strong doubts about making any changes other than to remain in CMS.

In the 2019 mayoral election in Matthews, voters tossed out the incumbent mayor Paul Bailey, who supported municipal charters, and the challenger who took his place, John Higdon, joined with the town board of commissioners to stick with CMS. Mint Hill, according to the Charlotte Observer, “did not actively pursue joining on to the legislation” allowing the community to establish its own municipal charters.

In 2020, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP, and two parents with children in CMS filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the law allowing community secession from CMS was an attempt to resegregate the district that “violate[d]… the state’s constitutional guarantees of a uniform system of free public education.”

Also in 2020, William Brawley, the state House representative who sponsored the bill that legalized secession from CMS, lost his reelection race. Brawley’s victorious Democratic opponent, Rachel Hunt, daughter of former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, criticized the vote on allowing schools to secede from CMS, according to the Charlotte Observer.

In the run-up to the election, as WFAE reported, “Democrats believe[d] they [could] flip the seat, in part because of the controversy over House Bill 514, which lets Matthews and three other municipalities build and operate their own taxpayer-funded charter school districts.”

Fallout From CSP Failings[edit | edit source]

During a series of congressional hearings in Washington, D.C., in 2019, then-U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had to respond[7] to the April 2019 NPE report that found the U.S. Department of Education had been scammed for hundreds of millions of dollars by fraudulent or mismanaged charter schools. Her responses revealed not only her inability to counter legitimate concerns over the spread of charter schools but also the charter school industry’s resistance to honestly address a chronic problem with its schools.

Members of Congress repeatedly referred to the report’s findings when questioning the secretary’s management of charter school grants and her proposal to increase funding for the program to $500 million annually. In response, DeVos first attempted to deny the problem, saying, “You are always going to have schools that don’t make it.”

When Democratic representatives continued their questions, DeVos then tried to distract attention from the problem, arguing there was a need for “more” charters, “not less.”

During the hearing, Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat of Connecticut, referred directly to the NPE report, citing the $1 billion stain on the department’s charter school grant program, and told DeVos, “This budget is full of cruel cuts to education programs, and it baffles me that you found room for a $60 million increase to the Charter Schools Program… especially when you consider recent reports of waste and abuse in that program.”

When Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, asked DeVos what was being done to recover the $1 billion in alleged financial mismanagement involving charters, DeVos said she “would look into the matter,” EducationWeek reported.

On the issue of how a federal agency could allow charter operators to rip off American taxpayers with impunity, and generally suffer no adverse consequences for their acts, DeVos acknowledged that waste and fraud in the charter grant program had been around for “some time.”

That much was true.

It was under Arne Duncan’s watch that the federal charter grants program was greatly expanded, states were required to lift caps on the numbers of charter schools in order to receive precious federal dollars, and the administration Duncan served in insulted public school teachers by proclaiming National Charter Schools Week on dates identical to what had always been observed as Teacher Appreciation Week.

And most of the wanton charter fraud, detailed in NPE’s two reports, that ran rampant during the Duncan years simply continued under DeVos, with little to no explanation of why this was allowed to occur.

In one exchange, DeVos pivoted to attacking the report authors personally rather than disproving their findings, saying, “The study was really funded by and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charter schools.”

That exchange in particular raised the hackles of NPE’s Burris, who quickly delved deeper into the data to find that incidents of financial fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school grant program were likely worse than the first estimate.

In an “open letter” to the secretary on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog site for the Washington Post, Burris and Diane Ravitch—an education historian, bestselling author, and cofounder of the Network for Public Education—wrote:

“Dear Secretary DeVos,
We were deeply disappointed by your public dismissal of the Network for Public Education’s report… As Secretary of Education you too should be concerned about the blatant waste of taxpayer dollars and the misrepresentations applicants make in order to secure those funds. Most of what we document in the report predates your time in office, so you should not be dismissive or defensive about what occurred on your predecessors’ watch. However, if you do not address the root causes, the problems will continue.”

Burris and Ravitch contended the report was “based on fact, not opinion,” and to demonstrate its veracity, they presented compelling new evidence that the original estimate of one-third of the $4.1 billion in grant money being wasted on defunct charter schools was likely a low-ball assessment.[8]

For instance, they pointed to grant money awarded between 2006 and 2014 to start up or expand charter schools in Michigan, DeVos’s home state. Of the more than 250 schools receiving grant money, at least 112, 44 percent, either never opened or closed. The amount of money wasted on these defunct charters totaled $21,013,678.00. Despite this enormous waste, Burris and Ravitch noted with alarm, DeVos’s department in 2018 gave Michigan yet another grant of $47,222,222 to start up or expand even more charters.

“As anxious as you are to open new charter schools,” they proposed, “if nearly half of them do not make it, we suggest that something is wrong with the selection process.”

The charter school failure rates Burris and Ravitch found in Michigan were similar to rates in other states that received very large grants.

In Ohio, of the roughly 290 charter schools that received federal grants from CSP during the same time period, 120 schools, 41 percent, also never opened or were later closed. The amount of waste to taxpayers totals $36,679,901.00.

In Louisiana, 58 of the 122 charter schools, 48 percent, that received funding through CSP failed, a waste of $26,665,973.00.

In California, of the more than 802 charter schools that received grant funds, 296 schools, 37 percent, closed or never opened, resulting in $101,954,832.00 in wasted education funds.

In Florida, of the 503 schools getting federal grants, 186 schools, 37 percent, never opened or closed, representing a loss of $33,896,485.00 in lost federal tax dollars.

When a charter that received grant money from the federal government suddenly closes, the loss of money is not limited to the federal government.

Local school districts also take a hit because of the loss of funds to students who transferred to the schools and the unrecovered costs the charter accumulated while it was in operation, frequently amounting to many thousands of dollars. In other words, the whole community takes a financial hit, which can result in the district having to make across-the-board budget cuts that eliminate teacher positions and programs in public schools all children attend.

And the pain inflicted from charter school fraud and malfeasance goes beyond money.

With every new charter school that said it would open and didn’t, or opened and then quickly closed, there were families and kids who were attracted by the marketing pitch and ran after promises of new and better education opportunities that turned out to be a mirage.

In a California community, one of the schools that received a $600,000 grant, Iftin University Prep High School in San Diego, closed mid-year, abandoning the remaining students and disbanding the senior class who then had to find other schools to complete their high school diplomas.

Another California charter school that received a $575,000 federal grant, City High School in Los Angeles, closed abruptly in the middle of the school year, leaving 116 students scrambling to find new schools. The school never had a permanent facility, which led students to drop out when the program that had been promised to them never materialized.

In Florida, where an average of 20 charter schools closed per year as of 2018, similar tragic stories have played out.

Acclaim Academy, a charter school in Orange County, which received a federal grant of $175,000, closed with only three weeks left in the school year, with less than a day’s notice given to parents and teachers. The closing “left 300 students with nowhere to go,” a reporter noted.

A Florida chain of charter schools operated by Richard Milburn Academy, Inc., received at least two grants totaling $375,000 for schools that never opened. The chain is notorious for operating charter schools rife with fraud and mismanagement, including two schools that closed after administrators manipulated grades, two shut down for low academic performance, and one that was closed after half the graduating class received diplomas despite lacking sufficient credits.

In Michigan, a Detroit charter school, University Yes Academy, that received an $830,000 CSP grant promised high school students academic courses and school programs it never delivered. The school had five principals in three years. An audit of the school “could not account for $300,000 of Title I funds.” After the money went missing, the school switched to a different management firm run by the same person. Then the school’s contract was transferred to a third management firm, which closed the school a week before classes were to start, leaving students and families stranded and high school seniors uncertain of how they would graduate and get diplomas.

An Ohio charter school that received a grant of $414,530, Mahoning Valley Opportunity Center, suddenly closed in the middle of the year without explanation. Teachers who showed up for work and found the doors locked had to comfort a student sobbing in front of the closed school.

These stories are not only tragic for the teachers, families, and children directly affected, but also for the communities that hoped these schools would bring new jobs, education opportunities, and the prospect of a better future for all their citizens, but instead turned out to be empty promises.

The Charter Industry Pushes Back[edit | edit source]

When Congress, in 2021, attempted to take some corrective actions to remedy long-standing problems in the charter school industry, the top lobbying group for the charter school industry rushed to preserve the status quo.

The group, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), objected to a provision in the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed 2022 education budget that would have closed loopholes that had long been exploited by charter school operators that profit from their schools through management contracts, real estate deals, and other business arrangements. NAPCS also objected to the legislation’s proposal to cut 9 percent from CSP.

The House budget proposal, which was passed out of the majority Democratic committee “in a party-line vote,” according to the Hill, was praised by numerous education groups, including the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities, for, among many things, more than doubling Title I funding for schools serving low-income children, providing over $3 billion more to educate students with disabilities, and increasing federal spending on K–12 education programs, Education Week reported.

The legislation mostly aligned with the President Biden administration’s proposed budget for K–12 spending, as reported by Chalkbeat in April 2021, and the provision ending federal funding of for-profit charter school operators reflected Biden’s pledge, made in his presidential campaign, to “not support any federal money for for-profit charter schools, period.”

The specific provision regarding for-profit charters that NAPCS objected to stated, “None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.”

Controversies over for-profit charter school operators are long-standing and largely unresolved.

A History of Ignoring CSP’s Problems[edit | edit source]

Debates about charter schools have been endemic in the education policy world for years. Criticism of or attempts to reform charter schools are often ignored by charter proponents in not only the industry but also the federal government, which has continued to create and expand charter schools.

Arne Duncan, who served as education secretary for the longest period of time before Betsy DeVos, was famous for being the consummate non-listener,[9] often talking over people with his prepared remarks and ignoring the advice of teachers and education experts.

This is not a partisan issue. Teachers demanded Duncan’s resignation, and Republican members of Congress complained in 2019 that DeVos’s department wasn’t responsive to requests for information.

Of course, any comparison between DeVos and Duncan can find some very big differences, but a constant throughout both administrations was a tendency to ignore, wall-off, or obfuscate when confronted with any inquiry aimed at the federal government’s efforts to create and expand charter schools.

After the Center for Media and Democracy’s 2015 report that found[10] federal grants had gone to hundreds of charter schools that had basically taken the money and run, CMD submitted 33 Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Education and was told these records would be forthcoming. The promised records never came.

The department also refused to provide CMD with public records regarding communications between federal and state officials about charter school grants and oversight. The largest grants by far had gone to state education agencies (SEAs) to disburse in subgrants to charter school startups and expansions. Federal officials claimed releasing such information would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

After CMD repeated its requests, the department released a list of some charter schools receiving the SEA grant money in a PDF that was “partly illegible.” Other information CMD requested related to the applications for the state grants never came. CMD concluded in its report summary, “Public information about funds received and spent by charters is severely lacking.”

Two months after the CMD report appeared, CSP released a dataset showing all grants awarded between school years 2006–07 and 2013–14, with information on grants given to start up, replicate, and expand charter schools. The dataset was released on December 23, 2015—just two days before the holiday break—likely to minimize attention.

Also in September of the same year, perhaps in anticipation of the CMD report, the department issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to SEAs emphasizing the importance of financial accountability for charter schools receiving federal dollars. The letter recommended SEAs conduct regular independent audits and strengthen authorizing practices. And the department provided an “Overview of the 2015 CSP SEA Review Process” explaining how the program awarded charter grants to states it administered.

In March 2019, Our Schools sent emails to contacts provided for three CSP grant programs that were later the subject of the NPE April 2019 report. The emails queried department staff about the grant process, including grant reviews, and whether the department had followed up to ensure compliance with the Dear Colleague letter. On March 15, a department official explained in a phone call that the questions had “create[d] havoc” in the office, but department staff members were “working on [a reply],” which would “take a few days.”

The reply never came.

The Charter School Industry’s Resistance to Reform[edit | edit source]

A 2016 audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General examined 33 charter schools in six states and found that their relationships with their for-profit management companies posed significant “financial risk” to federal funds, including risks “of waste, fraud, and abuse” due to charter school nonprofit boards “ceding fiscal authority” to management companies that control how federal funds are spent.

The loopholes that charter school operators use to extract profit from their education services are well known.

As University of South Carolina law professor Derek Black explained in a 2019 article in the Conversation, “Most states require charter schools to be nonprofit. To make money, some of them have simply entered into contracts with separate for-profit companies that they also own. These companies do make money off students.”

In its 2021 report on charters that operate for profit,[11] NPE examined more than 1,000 charter schools that were contracted with for-profit management companies and found that the schools’ nonprofit boards were often mere fronts for profit-making enterprises that used the charter schools they operated to “maximize their profits through self-dealing, excessive fees, real estate transactions, and under-serving students who need the most expensive services.”

Among the practices that for-profit charter operators employed, according to the NPE report, was to establish “sweeps contracts” that gave “for-profits the authority to run all school services in exchange for all or nearly all of the school’s revenue.”

The report also “identified over 440 charter schools operated for profit that received grants totaling approximately $158 million between 2006 and 2017,” from CSP, despite “strict regulations” against awarding CSP funds to charter schools operated by for-profit entities.

It was unlikely that NPE’s proposals would be welcomed by the charter industry as its lobbyists and proponents had a history of rejecting any proposals to rein in federal funding for for-profit charter operators.

In 2021, NAPCS’s then-president and CEO Nina Rees told a CNN reporter that the House’s budget proposal to cut federal funding to for-profit charters “could impact schools that contract out for cafeteria services, special education services, or back office staff.”

After the CNN article was published, it was updated with a quote from Representative DeLauro who called NAPCS’s statements “a well-funded misinformation campaign,” and said, “The language [of the proposed legislation] is clearly focused on ending the practice of charters accepting federal funds only to have the school run by a low-quality, for-profit company rife with conflicts of interest.”

Claims that ending federal funds to for-profit charters would make charter schools “do without food, plumbing, and books,” as Rees wrote in a tweet in 2021, seemed misleading to say the least.

First, concerns expressed by NAPCS misleadingly conflated school contracts for discrete services, like textbooks and professional development, with business arrangements that led to a private entity taking over the complete operations of a school. Their argument also overlooked that school district vendor contracts that exceed a certain monetary threshold are customarily approved by an elected school board in a public meeting, not by private agreements between business partners that control a charter school.

Also, the claim that proposed cuts to for-profit charter school funding would apply to “ALL federal funding” (emphasis original) to charter schools was overblown. The vast amount of federal dollars already going to charter schools—such as funds from the federal government’s Title I program, for instance—would not be affected.

Also, NAPCS’s objection to cutting CSP funding has an inherent conflict of interest. In a 2021 email to Our Schools, Burris noted that NAPCS was a past recipient of a grant from CSP, having been awarded $2,385,960 from former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in 2018.

According to data compiled by NPE in 2019, NAPCS spent $2,621,999 lobbying the federal government for charter schools between 2015 and 2019, which means the grant from DeVos and CSP nearly covered the cost of the group’s federal lobbying for those years.

Much of the rhetoric NAPCS employed in its campaign lapsed into cynical posturing about denying funding to students, “who are more likely to be Black and Brown and come from low-income communities,” when really there is a business interest at stake.

When NPE’s 2021 analysis of the for-profit charter sector compared the proportion of disadvantaged children these schools enrolled to proportions of those students present in the surrounding districts, it found, “Fewer disadvantaged students (proportionally) attend charters run for profit.” In five cities NPE analyzed, only one—Detroit—had for-profit-run charters that served more students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. “In all [five] cities,” the report noted, “for-profit-run schools serve fewer students who receive services under IDEA,” the federal program that funds education services for students with disabilities.

Yet, the charter industry’s opposition to stricter regulation of any kind is not surprising. For years, the industry and its proponents[12] have refused to acknowledge[13] any criticism, no matter how reasonable, of how their schools are conceived and run.

Where CSP Went Wrong[edit | edit source]

From the outset, there has been a tendency for people who looked at charter schools to see in them whatever they wanted. But two competing theories that helped propel the charter movement were that the schools would serve as laboratories for experimenting with new education approaches that could be shared with public school districts, or that charters were created to disrupt the public school system by giving parents an alternative to district-run schools.

When the federal government got involved in creating new charter schools, beginning formally in 1994, it leaned into the former of those theories rather than the latter. The bill that led to the forming of CSP under the Department of Education described charters as “a mechanism for testing a variety of educational approaches,” and continuing through to March 2024, part of the mission of CSP, as defined by the education department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement that oversees it, is to “increase public understanding of what charter schools can contribute to American education.”

Since its inception, CSP has given out more than $4.1 billion to create and expand charter schools, according to NPE’s December 2019 report.

Yet somewhere along the way, CSP forgot its duty to create and oversee a charter sector that benefited the public system and instead chose to reward schools that gave narrow slices of children and families a publicly funded alternative to their local schools.

Indeed, CSP generally seemed to have abandoned its original commitment to a cooperative model of charter schools and instead tended to award charters that disrupted school districts by creating competitive schools that served only the interests of specific populations of students rather than developing innovations that all students could benefit from.

NPE’s April 2019 report offered numerous examples of CSP grants that were awarded to schools that tailored their policies and programs to attract specific populations of students and discourage others.

An Idaho charter school that received a five-year $1,250,000 grant in 2018 to expand its enrollment emphasized a military theme in its recruitment, enforced a strict dress code, and emphasized “patriotism” in its curriculum. Therefore, it was unsurprising that the school enrolled a student population that had a disproportionately lower percentage of English language learners and a higher percentage of white students compared to schools in the surrounding community.[14]

Another CSP grantee received $1,115,137 in 2018 for expanding its “diverse” student body even though the school had achieved that “diversity” by enrolling 100 percent of the small number of white students in the community and the population of Black students who were least apt to be from households with incomes low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.[15]

In another case, a recipient of multiple federal grants totaling about $7 million between 2006 and 2015, the Great Hearts chain of schools, was cited four times in a 2017 report from the ACLU of Arizona for operating schools that practiced “illegal or exclusionary” policies and practices—including turning away transgender and special needs students and enrolling students who were disproportionally white and wealthy, compared to the communities where the schools were located.[16]

The most egregious example was the multiple grants awarded to charters operated by BASIS Educational Group. From 2006 to 2014, CSP awarded grants of $5,605,000 to several charter schools operated by the education management company, with most of the funding ($4,140,000) passed through a grant to the state of Arizona.[17]

NPE’s report pointed to an analysis of the student demographics of BASIS schools in Arizona that Burris had published in the Washington Post in 2017, which found those schools’ enrollment demographics comprised a racial makeup that was dissimilar to the rest of the state.

Specifically, Burris found that although the student population of Arizona public schools was 5 percent Black and 45 percent Latinx, students in BASIS schools were only 3 percent Black and 10 percent Latinx. BASIS overwhelmingly enrolled students who were Asian, 32 percent, and white, 51 percent, compared to Arizona public schools, where Asian students comprised only 3 percent of students, and white students were 39 percent of school enrollments.

Burris observed a number of tactics BASIS charter schools employed to skew their student enrollment to students who were more socioeconomically advantaged, including limiting its schools’ enrollment of students with learning disabilities and students struggling with the English language; eschewing the federal government’s free or reduced-price lunch program that low-income families rely on to feed their children during the day; and opting not to provide free bus transportation to its schools.

“In BASIS Arizona, only 1 percent of all students are English language learners,” Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Our Schools in 2021, “and only 1 percent are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL). This is in a state with 52 percent FRPL students in public schools. We see similar under-enrollment of students with special needs. In BASIS Arizona, only 3 percent of students have… [a disability requiring special needs], compared to 13 percent in the state’s public schools. Similarly, in 2018, we found that less than 2 percent of BASIS students in Texas received any type of special education services.”

But to be clear, schools like those operated by BASIS, and the other charter grantees exposed in NPE’s report, were never created to serve all students. They were created to be a specific type of school to serve a specific type of student.

So, if the purpose of the federal government’s CSP was to “increase public understanding of what charter schools can contribute to American education,” then what has been learned was that these schools, at least how they were conceived and were being replicated as of this writing, were adding to divisions and inequities in the public system rather than lifting up the common good.

What Public School Advocates Say Should Be Done[edit | edit source]

NPE has called on members of Congress to “defund” CSP, saying it’s “a program that has lost its mission.”

Although there’s little evidence as of this writing that members of Congress or officials in the Biden presidential administration have any intentions to end CSP, there’s ample evidence that NPE’s criticisms of the federal program have made lasting impressions on Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House and made federal support of charters more divisive along partisan lines.

When the Biden administration released its proposed education budget for 2025 on March 11, 2024, once again there was a $40 million cut to CSP representing 9 percent of the program’s funding, according to ABC 33/40.

In its explanation of the CSP budget, the Department of Education stated that the cuts “reflect declines in demand for funding” of new charters and charter expansions and noted “grantees’ inability to replicate or expand the number of schools planned in their applications.”

Days after the release of Biden’s budget proposal, Republicans on Capitol Hill staged a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce entitled “Proven Results: Highlighting the Benefits of Charter Schools for Students and Families” in which the testimony was clearly stacked in favor of charter schools.

While Republican leaders of the committee invited three charter school proponents who spoke positively about charter school “results,” Democrats were allowed to invite only one panelist but did not choose someone who would attempt to meet pro-charter ideologues in the middle, much less join into the pro-charter dialogue.

Instead, Democrats on the committee chose Julian Vasquez Heilig, a founding board member of NPE, to submit testimony that balanced the discussion with nuanced criticism of the charter school industry and the federal government’s support of it.

“The issue of accountability, or the lack thereof, in the charter sector is particularly alarming,” stated Vasquez Heilig in his testimony. “The absence of rigorous oversight in many states has paved the way for financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and a disturbingly high rate of school closures.”

At least one charter school proponent who watched the hearing and wrote about it couldn’t help but notice that Democratic representatives on the committee who spoke were unanimous in their criticism of charters.

In its review of the hearing, NPE stated,“[T]he hearing revealed deep divisions between the Republican members of the committee, who gave uncritical support for charter schools and continually referred to public schools as ‘abysmal’ and ‘failing,’ and Democrats, who expressed concerns regarding the lack of transparency and accountability in charter schools.”

  1. Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, Network for Public Education, “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride” (April 2019).
  2. Jeff Bryant, Truthdig, “Charter Schools Are Scamming the U.S. Government (March 29, 2019).
  3. Jeff Bryant, Common Dreams, “Things Didn’t Go Well When Betsy DeVos Was Confronted With Her Department’s Charter School Fraud” (April 22, 2019).
  4. Carol Burris, Network for Public Education, “Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste” (December 2019).
  5. Valerie Strauss and Carol C. Burris, Washington Post, “Is the Charter Schools Program Financing White-Flight Academies?” (June 7, 2021).
  6. Data as of 2021.
  7. Jeff Bryant, the Progressive, “New Report Spurs Congress to Question Up to $1 Billion Wasted on Charter Schools” (April 2, 2019).
  8. Valerie Strauss, Carol Burris, and Diane Ravitch; the Washington Post; “An Open Letter to Betsy DeVos, From Two Leading Public Education Advocates” (April 17, 2019).
  9. Jeff Bryant, Salon, “Washington Post Writes the Most Embarrassing, Awful Profile of Arne Duncan Ever, Completely Misses the Point” (July 11, 2015).
  10. The Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch, “Charter School Black Hole: CMD Special Investigation Reveals Huge Info Gap on Charter Spending” (October 21, 2015).
  11. Carol Burris and Darcie Cimarusti, Network for Public Education, “Chartered for Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain” (March 2021).
  12. Jeff Bryant, Salon, “Why Charter School Proponents Have Lost Many of the Democrats Who Once Supported Them” (May 14, 2019).
  13. Jeff Bryant, Salon, “Why Won’t the Charter School Industry Acknowledge Its Failures?” (July 20, 2019).
  14. Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, Network for Public Education, “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride,” p. 16 (April 2019).
  15. Ibid, p. 16.
  16. Ibid, pp. 16–17.
  17. Ibid, pp.17–18.

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