The Delaware House of Representatives released their House Agenda for their last day of legislative session until January 2016. The first item on the agenda is State Rep. Kim William’s House Bill 186. These are the reasons this bill needs to pass:
1) Noel Rodriguez & Academy of Dover- $127,000 in personal spending and another $129,000 the State Auditor isn’t sure was used for school or personal spending. As well, an anonymous source informed me two other staff members at the school were also pilfering funds, and this was reported to the FBI, but nothing has come from any of that…
2) Family Foundations Academy, Sean Moore & Tennell Brewington- over $90,000 in person spending between this dynamic duo, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in other questionable spending performed by this school during their reign. The State Auditor’s report hasn’t come out yet on this one, but it will be a doozy that may make Academy of Dover look weak in comparison.
3) Delaware Military Academy & Jack Wintermantel- while out of the news, this 2013 State Auditor investigation found numerous financial violations at this school. Source: http://auditor.delaware.gov/Reports/FY2013/DMA%20Investigative%20Report.pdf
4) The seeming inability for many charter schools to accurately code items correctly on the state financing website, as indicated by what is shown on Delaware Online Checkbook. In some situations, funds are allocated in areas that have absolutely nothing to do with why the funds were spent, i.e. Academy of Dover putting a payment for an out of state residential treatment center under “Employee Recognition”. Furthermore, putting students names in a special education settlement transaction on Delaware Online Checkbook is a clear violation of FERPA legislation but schools continue to do this.
5) Section 347 of Paragraph 508 of Title 14: This special designation for charter schools allows them to keep the unused portion of their transportation funds for “educational purposes”, but there is no clear mention of what those “educational purposes” can be, or where the funds should be directed on an accounting level. In the past two fiscal years, over $2.4 million dollars was kept by Delaware charter schools, with Family Foundations Academy and Newark Charter School each keeping over $400,000 EACH from this caveat.
6) As indicated by the ten charter school performance fund applications I just posted, most schools don’t have a clue about finances and what funds can go to which allotment.
7) The Delaware Charter School Network is vehemently opposed to this bill- while they have a right to be concerned about the cost of audits, the cost to taxpayers over the complete and utter disregard of how taxpayer funds are spent as well as the strain and disruption this places on all education in Delaware makes it very clear more oversight is needed over the Wild West of Finances occurring in our charter schools. As well, at least two of the current or former members of their governing board are/were heads of school at two of the charter schools that are being investigated, and one of them sits on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE
8) The DOE is not in a position to do anything about this: through a complete lack of oversight over the charter schools they authorize, the DOE has never caught fraud in the act. They do not monitor they money flowing in and out of these schools
9) Lack of oversight at the charter schools themselves- many charter schools just started having a Citizens Budget Oversight Committee this year. This has been in state code for years. As well, a DOE representative is supposed to be at each meeting for each school. If some of these schools that have operated for years never had a DOE rep at their non-existent CBOC meetings, than the DOE fell asleep at the wheel but they are never held accountable.
10) In discussing House Bill 186, the State Auditor’s office said seven charter schools are under investigation. We know Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, and Providence Creek Academy are three, but who are the other four? Judging by their board minutes, Thomas Edison Charter School may be one, but who are the other three and why are they being investigated?
Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network is fighting like a House Bill 50 parent proponent, but she is against this bill. She has emails going out every day begging parents to email legislators to stop this bill. Should what is essentially a lobbyist firm receive that much free reign to stop a bill? What is Kendall so afraid of? Is there something much, much bigger yet to be discovered? That wouldn’t shock me at all.