Charter school financial abuse. It happens. All the time in Delaware. It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes. These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket. But our State Government allows this to happen. Delaware has no Inspector General. Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass. And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it. State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits. Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no. It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first. Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.
These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District. Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done? These are not elected board members at charters. And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members. Many of the charters websites are a joke. Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up. No charter board records their meetings. No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that. None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time. The average citizen would in a New York minute. But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us. We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.
Let me get one thing straight. I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE. I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools. I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses. The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?” But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it. But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment. It has become a joke. The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools. And the results of all these reports are always the same.
The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group. If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card. If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?
And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.” While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business. Children are not a profit center. They go to school to learn. They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank. They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board. If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education. I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later. And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this. About all this education nonsense in our state. You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell. You answer to the people that elected you. The people are sick of the abuse and scandal. And we are waking up. Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong. It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something. Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January. Stop the fraud playing out in our state. Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.
*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats. The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.