Campaign for America’s Future: New Report: Federal Funds for Charter Schools Go Into a ‘Black Hole’

Source: Jeff Bryant, National Education Policy Center, October 27, 2015

America’s experiment with charter schools has thus far generated academic results that are mixed, at best. Another promise, that these schools would be more educationally “innovative,” is also generally unfulfilled so far. Adding to those uncertainties posed by charter schools is another: Very little is known about how these schools have spent over $3.7 billion the federal government has used to fuel expansion of the charter industry since 1995. That’s the principal finding of a new report published by the Center for Media and Democracy, which looked for information about how much tax money coming from the federal government’s Charter School Program (CSP) goes to charters and how that money is spent and found that information is often “severely lacking.” … What the report does reveal, though, for the first time, is a list of actual schools that received grants from the CSP for start-up and “planning” expenses. In examining charter recipients of federal grants in just 12 states, mostly from 2010-2015, CMD investigators found millions in federal grant money going to charter schools that were closed after brief periods of service and to “ghost” charter schools that never opened. … Despite the obstruction to its information gathering, CMD’s report reveals startling examples of how individual charters that have received federal grant money under CSP have produced very little education benefit for students wile channeling taxpayer money to unknown pockets.

Related:

Charter School Black Hole: CMD Special Investigation Reveals Huge Info Gap on Charter Spending
Source: Center for Media and Democracy, October 26, 2015

Indeed, no one even knew how much the federal government had spent on its program designed to boost the charter sector. So CMD reviewed more than two decades of federal authorizations and appropriations to calculate the sum, which is now more than $3.7 billion—as noted in this new report. CMD also found that the federal government was not providing the public with a list of all the charter schools that received federal tax monies and how much. CMD also found that many states have not provided the public with ready information about the amounts of federal funding each charter has received under the federal “Charter School Program” (CSP) for state education agencies (SEAs), and that most states have not provided the public with information about the amounts in state and federal tax dollars that have been diverted to charters rather than spent strengthening traditional public schools. … In this investigation, CMD pursued numerous open records requests under federal or state law about how much federal CSP money had been given to charters and how that money was spent in 12 states. As a result, CMD found that public information about funds received and spent by charters is severely lacking. It also documented how little is known about spending by closed charters, and identified “ghost” schools, where federal grants were awarded to charters that never opened.

Below are a few key findings from the report:

Michigan: In 2011 and 2012, $3.7 million in federal taxpayer money was awarded to 25 Michigan “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. …

Ohio: Out of the 88 schools created by planning and implementation grants under CSP between 2008 and 2013, at least 15 closed within a few years; a further seven schools never even opened. These charters received more than $4 million in federal taxpayer money. Despite this track record, Ohio landed the biggest one-year grant by far in the 2015 competition for federal funding: $32.6 million. …

New York State: CMD discovered that almost every single application for the New York subgrants was written by the same multi-million-dollar charter consultancy firm: Charter School Business Management. …

Read full Report.