Well, here we go again! The government thinks that passing new legislation will be the answer to dealing with the misdeeds of a few rogue public charter schools. Let’s be honest, when is the legislature going to pass a law that punishes traditional school districts for not appropriately overseeing charter public schools? Let’s be sure that when we cast blame, we bring in all of the guilty parties.
As with the 2002 legislation, SB740, (changing the way that charter public schools offering independent study are paid) the state took a blanket approach instead of punishing those who have actually crossed the line. Sure, 99% of charter public school leaders do not mislead the public, use public tax dollars appropriately, and hold high standards for leadership integrity in managing their schools.
This entire situation started with one school organization playing in the gray, forgetting the benefits of utilizing common sense, and believing that opening the doors to practically any purchase a family wanted would be a great idea for public education. The public needs to be reminded that charter public schools are under the authority of the agency that approved them in the first place. When that agency, normally a traditional school district in California, doesn’t provide oversight, the potential for fraud and misuse of public dollars is easily accomplished by those leaders managing these schools.
What I’ve heard from these leaders over the years, when I have pressed in with great concern over their business practices,
“Since the law doesn’t clearly state I can’t do this, I’m going to do this, and your concerns are simply overstated!”
You and I both know that having integrity, running a business, and being successful has to include accountability, transparency, and the use of appropriate business practices; no matter what the law states or doesn’t state.
The Classical Academies always provided our school districts financial information. Several years into our operation the law changed to clarify that charter public schools must provide financial information to their school districts. Since they provide us oversight, doesn’t it make sense we should provide them a financial update even if the law doesn’t tell us to do so? Some school leaders waited for the law to go into effect before submitting their financials. It’s a leadership lesson for me to just be brilliant at the basics and you will be miles ahead of your competition as a result.
We will be watching this legislation closely and will be rallying our families to contact leaders in Sacramento to oppose such overreach that will impact not only charter public schools, but also traditional public school districts. Ladies and gentlemen, government is by the people, for the people, and of the people.
What we have here is a small group of people trying to manage a problem that only existed in one school organization.
The real solution is to go after school districts that fail in their oversight responsibilities that allowed this behavior to happen in the first place. Holding local superintendents and local school boards accountable in failing to do their job would be a step in the right direction. Charter school leaders need accountability, the taxpayers want to trust that good financial decisions are being made for students, and public education needs a good dose of integrity and honesty; something a new law cannot provide.
Cameron Curry is the Chief Executive Officer for The Classical Academies, an organization of award-winning, tuition-free, public charter schools serving 4600+ students in grades TK-12 in North San Diego County. Curry also serves on the board of the California Charter Schools Association and serves as commissioner for the California Department of Education Advisory Commission for Charter Schools (ACCS). For more information about The Classical Academies, visit www.classicalacademy.com