“The waste of taxpayer money—none of us can feel good about,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services and Education just last month.
Yet, he is calling for a 48% increase in the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) quarter-billion-dollar-a-year ($253.2 million) program designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—an initiative repeatedly criticized by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls.
CMD’s review of appropriations reveals that the federal government has spent a staggering sum, $3.3 billion, of taxpayer money creating and expanding the charter school industry over the past two decades, but it has done so without requiring the most basic transparency in who ultimately receives the funds and what those tax dollars are being used for, especially in contrast to the public information about truly public schools.
Even more tellingly, other documents reveal that ED has knowingly awarded charter grant to states with no statutory oversight of charter authorizers and schools as the grant applications are evaluated based on how much “flexibility” from state laws charter schools enjoy.
This lack of oversight, which is a design feature rather than a bug, is a recipe for disaster for far too many American school children, and for taxpayers, when large chunks of the money end up either missing in action or in the corporate coffers of charter school “management organizations” exempt from democratic control.