We already know the laxity of charter school accountability in Arkansas. We are not alone. Check the Washington Post.

The U.S. government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons, according to a report from an education advocacy group. The study also says the U.S. Education Department does not adequately monitor how its grant money is spent.

The report, titled “Asleep at the Wheel” and issued by the nonprofit advocacy group Network for Public Education, says:

More than 1,000 grants were given to schools that never opened, or later closed because of mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment or fraud. “Of the schools awarded grants directly from the department between 2009 and 2016, nearly one in four either never opened or shut its doors,” it says.

Some grants in the 25-year-old federal Charter School Program (CSP) have been awarded to charters that set barriers to enrollment of certain students. Thirty-four California charter schools that received grants appear on an American Civil Liberties Union list of charters “that discriminate — in some cases illegally — in admissions.”

The department’s grant approval process for charters has been sorely lacking, with “no attempt to verify the information presented” by applicants.

The Education Department in Republican and Democratic administrations has “largely ignored or not sufficiently addressed” recommendations to improve the program made by its own inspector general.

Arkansas, too, has wasted money on academically deficient and incompetently and even corruptly managed schools. It waives regulation of schools of every sort. It makes no meaningful effort to assess the performance of students before, during and after moves from real public schools to privately operated but publicly funded charter schools. Just today, at the behest of Education Commissioner Johnny Key, a Senate committee approved legislation to make it easier to transfer the charter of a failed operation — think Covenant Keepers in Little Rock — to any other private management operation that might happen along, without a review process for the new operator. It will make life so much simpler, Key said.  Shoring up real public schools would be simple, too.


Take heart. The legislature also is working on legislation to make it easier for all public schools to ignore school standards. And it seems intent on simply allowing people to take state money to the private school of their choice. They have even more leeway than charter schools in discouraging the wrong sorts of students from entering their doors depending on the preferred flavor of discrimination — disabled, immigrant, gay, poor, of color.

Here’s another good analysis in Forbes of the new report by a group founded by Diane Ravitch, a former “reformer” who’s now a one-woman truth squad against the Billionaires Charter School Club.