CA State Auditor finds charter schools prevent local accountability

The California State Auditor criticized charter operator schemes that allow “authorizing” school districts to open “out-of-district” schools and receive funding taken from another school district’s boundaries with virtually no economic or public accountability for the money.

The 109 page study cited a host of disruptions that occur when an out-of-district charter school is opened:

“As a result, two of the three districts we visited—Acton‑Agua Dulce Unified School District (Acton‑Agua Dulce Unified) and New Jerusalem Elementary School District (New Jerusalem)—used exceptions within state law to authorize out‑of‑district charter schools that, in effect, expanded the districts’ reach into neighboring communities. However, our review found that Acton‑Agua Dulce Unified and New Jerusalem could not demonstrate that they complied with state law when they authorized Assurance Learning Academy (Assurance Academy) and Acacia Elementary Charter School (Acacia Elementary), respectively.” 

The study recommended the following:

    • Address the requirements related to districts’ authorizations of charter schools outside their geographical boundaries that are currently vague and ineffective.
    • Restore the local taxpayer’s voting power over charter schools inside of their districts by allowing citizens/school boards voting authority over the schools.
    • Reevaluate the financial incentives districts receive for opening charter schools outside their boundaries.
    • Formally track charters granted outside any district. The study found that over 10 percent of the State’s charter schools have at least one school outside of the authorizing district’s boundaries.
    • Develop procedures for evaluating their charter schools’ financial information so as to respond to indicators of financial distress. Charters with fiscal problems often close without warning to students or parents.
    • Institute monitoring practices to assure the charters are meeting appropriate academic standards which the study finds is currently below the average of comparable schools.