One billion awarded by the federal government’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) went to charter schools that never opened or opened for only brief periods.
During a series of recent congressional hearings in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had to respond to a recent report finding the U.S. Department of Education has been scammed for hundreds of millions of dollars by fraudulent or mismanaged charter schools. Her responses reveal not only her inability to counter legitimate concerns over the spread of charter schools but also the charter school industry’s resistance to honestly address a chronic problem with its schools.
The report, which I co-authored with Network for Public Education Executive Director Carol Burris, found that up to $1 billion awarded by the federal government’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) went to charter schools that never opened or opened for only brief periods before being shut down for mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment, and fraud. Our calculation was that a least a third of the $4.1 billion spent by the CSP was wasted.
Members of Congress repeatedly referred to these findings when questioning the secretary’s management of charter school grants and her proposal to increase funding for the program to $500 million annually. In response, DeVos first attempted to deny the problem, saying, “You are always going to have schools that don’t make it.”
When Democratic representatives continued their questions, DeVos then tried to distract attention from the problem, arguing there was a need for “more” charters, “not less.”
In the most recent exchange, DeVos pivoted to attacking the report authors personally rather than disproving their findings, saying, “The study was really funded by and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charter schools.”