“Rep. Dukes asked how many charter schools are under investigation. Ms. Davies said seven. Rep. Dukes asked if they were serious infractions. Ms. Davies said some of the investigations are far enough along to know it is really bad.”
One of the most interesting legislative arguments in the past few months has been the saga of the charter school audit bill. First introduced by State Rep. Kim Williams back in March, the bill has taken on different forms, culminating in a House Education Committee battle from 6/17/15.
The minutes from the 6/17/15 meeting clearly show a House divided with common sense prevailing on the Democrat side (with the exception of Education Chair Earl Jaques) and blissful ignorance on the side of the House Republicans. When it comes to charter school accountability and transparency, this pattern consistently emerges and it does not bode well for the education system in Delaware when seven schools are investigated by the state Auditor of Accounts. I asked one House Republican why they voted no on House Bill 186, but he was unable to remember why at the time. This was late in the evening on June 30th, but I would think anyone would know why they voted no on a bill.
By the time the bill got to the Senate floor, Senator David Sokola immediately tabled the bill and demanded it be heard in the Senate Education Committee. Sokola has long been a clear supporter of charter schools and has sponsored or supported many bills that give them the lack of transparency they currently have, including the original charter school legislation from 1995.
When the Delaware General Assembly shows a clear bias towards charter schools, who represent only 10-15% of Delaware students enrolled in these types of schools, but takes up so much of the conversation, it is very troubling to know charter schools can get away with so much. When we have Education Committee chairs on both sides of the General Assembly who very openly make every attempt to protect these schools is extremely disturbing. Even more alarming is the parents and supporters of charter schools who just don’t care, or continue to enroll their children in schools that have clearly had serious financial abuse.
I contacted the Auditor of Accounts office a couple weeks ago and spoke with Ms. Davies. I asked again for the names of the other four charter schools being investigated by that office, but she explained she was not able to do so at the time because that could give a presumption of guilt when no judgment has been rendered since the investigations are still under way. Which I completely understand but there is another side of this issue which I did explain to her. Parents make choices for their children with different schools and they have a right to know if the school they choose has issues going on. She understood that, but was still unable to reveal the schools. I don’t blame her in any way. It is a thorny issue.
We have to wonder, as citizens of Delaware, why certain legislators seem more concerned with looking good for the Delaware Charter Schools Network than showing clear transparency and open government for the constituents they represent. Charter schools are not evil in and of themselves, but the secrets, lies, and cover-ups are increasing rapidly and the more they occur the more we see this insane protection of them by some of our legislators.