It’s time to clean house at the DE DOE charter school office Re: calls for state audits of charter schools

Delaware charter school audits under scrutiny Matthew Albright, The News Journal

In the wake of bombshell allegations that the co-leaders of a charter school made thousands of dollars in personal purchases on school credit cards, some lawmakers want the state auditor’s office to run charter audits to make sure taxpayer money isn’t being misused.

State law:

736 Local School District and Charter School Citizen Budget Oversight Committees

4.0 Committee Members for Charter Schools

4.2 The Committee shall have at least five (5) members with representation from educators and parents of students in the school and representation from the Department of Education. In addition, where possible, the Committee shall have at least two members with formal educational or vocational backgrounds amenable to oversight of school district financial statements. Further provided, Committee members shall not be compensated, except for allowable mileage for training or similar activities, for participation on such Committee.

How could such misuse of public funds happen right under nose of DE DOE? They sit at the table with the school’s financial budget oversight committee as a full committee member. 

Charters are required to have audits done, but now the schools decide who audits them. Rep. Kim Williams, sponsor of House Bill 53, says having the state auditor, who already audits district and vo-tech schools, perform the work is the best way to monitor spending.

I’ll bet Publius buddies comes in crying, “we don’t receive capital funding”.

WTF agian, DE DOE sits on the charter schools CBOC and should be smart enough to ask for itemized credit-card expenditures and when will state legislators legislative a law requiring all traditional, charter and votech schools to use a state P-card? DE DOE knows all about Moyer’s AMX and still does nothing!  

“There are lots of charter schools that are operating under the rules and doing a good job, but when these kinds of things happen it gives them all a bad name,” Williams said. “What this is about is making sure that everybody is playing by the same rules.”

Yep it gives all of them a bad name! But again, the failing oversight of DE DOE needs to be questioned! 

This is from Moyer 2013 Annual Board Retreat Meeting minutes;

A Moyer Credit Card

A motion was presented to provide a credit card for Moyer Academy to use for purchases with the understanding that:

1. Internal controls and spending parameters will be established prior to the acquisition of such a card.

2. An investigation and comparison will be made between the State of Delaware issued card (all rebates belong to the State) and the American Express card in which points belong to the holder and make a recommendation based on the findings of the investigation and comparison will be made to the board for its approval. 

And where was / is DE DOE????

Charter school advocates say they simply need more clarity on what is expected of them and worry that the bill would limit their flexibility and autonomy if it becomes law.

And then there is the difference between playing stupid and being stupid! 

“We’re all about transparency and we are fine with having an audit. In fact, it’s required under state law,” said Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network. “I do not believe that using a pass-through that will raise the cost and take money out of the classroom is the right solution. I think the solution they’re proposing is bigger than the problem that there is.”

Nothing personal but we’ve had more problems with charter schools since the changing of the guard at DCSN. 

Massett argues charters will have to pay a management fee to the state and that the state-negotiated audit contracts will likely cost some schools more.

But Williams says charters will only have to pay more if they aren’t keeping the right records or otherwise not handling their business correctly. For schools that are already doing everything they are supposed to, she says costs will not significantly rise.

Williams is correct 100%

Rep. Michael Ramone says a change is necessary, but handing duties over to the auditor might not be the right one.

“Everybody looks bad if any of our schools aren’t being fiscally responsible,” Ramone said. “However, as a business guy, the approach I think we should take is to give these schools a clear expectation of what is required of their schools as far as their fiscal responsibility and reporting criteria, and I don’t think we’ve provided that yet.”

It looks bad when state legislators take part in organizing charter schools and play dumb when it comes to leases on personal property. McFly !!!! Why not the state auditor auditing usage of state and local taxpayers funds?  

Ramone said the state should establish a specific, detailed list of everything they expect charters to cover with an audit, so charters can be sure they are hiring the right firm to do the right thing.“If we clearly establish what they’re supposed to be doing, I believe our schools will do it,” he said.

WFT Mike ???????????? The state law “you” supported required DE DOE representatives on the charter schools CBOC! The taxpayers are being robbed as DE DOE play looks-out man waving the crooks past! 

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23 responses to “It’s time to clean house at the DE DOE charter school office Re: calls for state audits of charter schools

  1. john kowalko

    Kendall Massett and Rep. Ramone are two unabashed and unapologetic supporters of the Charter School movement who hold the taxpayers of Delaware in such disdain that they would deny any accountability by charter schools that could expose the criminality involved in the “charter schools independence”. Ms. Massett has a vested interest in protecting the atmosphere of secrecy that surrounds every charter school and its use of public taxpayer money since it guarantees no scrutiny or determination of legitimacy as to where the public funds eventually are gathered. Rep. Ramone’s sanctomonious bleatings about business models and business privilege belie the reality that he is supporting and contributing to an atmosphere of abuse of public funds and a total disregard for accountability and transparency owed to our taxpaying public. Massett’s attitude toward the rights of the public, families, children and taxpayers of Delaware is immoral and indefensible. Shame on her and those ill-informed and uninformed supporters in the General Assembly.
    Rwepresentative John Kowalko 25th District

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    • pot meet kettle. (First 20 seconds speaks volumes)

      Mr. Kowalko
      “(Replace the name)’s attitude toward the rights of the public, families, children and taxpayers of Delaware is immoral and indefensible. Shame on (change the gender) and those ill-informed and uninformed supporters (of unionized, institutionalized, fiefdom protecting, social justice, and social re-distributionists)

      I’ll let your name calling and over righteous view of who is protected and whose rights are being stomped upon just kind of lay where it falls. It is unfortunately inaccurate and disappointing that the rights of informed individuals that disagree with your view are so easily dismissed but your view is without question.

      I suppose the two legislators who wrote of their support prevailing wage and then were thoroughly debunked by readers, the CR institute and other professionals is inconsequential to the simple fact that it would save taxpayers millions while providing more jobs and better services to those said taxpayers footing the bill? It really is quite pathetic that our legislators would pontificate about benefits of union support and wages when the majority of non-state workers are NOT union members.

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  2. Kendall Massett turns a blind eye to anything non-charter and to anything going on in a charter that might be problematic. When the whole mess swirling around the Lewises at Pencader became public, the very mess that propelled the downward spiral Massett’s solution was simplistic: have the entire school board resign! Can’t find genius like that everywhere. I tried before I left and immediately after I left to get an audit done of the school’s books, to no avail. There is far too little accountability in some charters, until the walls come tumbling down and then it’s too late. Charters operate with taxpayer money and must be accountable. Must.

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    • Publius e decere

      I agree they must be accountable, as much so as a district. Even districts which own large industrial vacant properties at taxpayer expense.

      I also agree that the board on watch at Pencader when the troubles took root was an ineffective board. Frank did in a week what the prior board leadership couldn’t get done in two years. Sadly the priors had set loose a runaway political train at DOE which was dead set at making Pencader the example of closure and DOE pulled the lever only a short time into Franks turnaround.

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    • Publius, how long ago did Pencader close? Two years ago? It’s time to let that one go. The reason for this legislation is because of things that very recently went on while the DOE Charter School office either ignored it or was too incompetent to realize what was going on. This is the tip of the iceberg, and I know you know this. Deflection is good IF it proves a point, but yours does not. I think it is time to truly to take a very good look at who exactly is appearing on charter school boards. The article stated the “school” knew about FFA’s financial theft for close to a year. The “school” was the board. Maybe it’s time we thought about publicly electing charter school boards as well as traditional school districts. I’m not saying this is ALL charters, but enough that the problems are becoming everyone’s problem.

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    • Publius e decere

      Kevin,

      I agree we can discuss capabilities and standards for charter board members. Public election will not do that. I mean, look at Christina — and Red Clay. Quite a few examples of people with no vocational or avocational cred when it comes to governance, finances, or fiduciary duty. Yet “duly” elected. I call it “blind” faith.

      Of course Pencader is distant history. I was merely pushing back at the blog commenter since she brought up accountability yet she was and is “Exhibit 1” for charter board failure at Pencader having served as its board president. She claims she could do nothing about how the school operated and, well, given her lack of experience with governing and lack of financial experience I can see why she denies and denies. But that is not an excuse. She failed in the job and Pencader was closed as a result. Full stop.

      Back to Christina — where does she serve now? And you say that public elections will solve board incompetency — tut tut.

      Publius

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  3. Joanne Christian

    WHOA, WHOA,….Kilroy….why should a charter school have the benefit of the STATE AUDITOR overseeing their accounts, when the very DOE personnel who are supposedly assigned to their individual schools get a pass?!! It’s part of DOEs job assigned to THEM, that THEY inserted themselves at that level in oversight.

    How about the state auditor oversee the DOE accounts, and those charters unattended by DOE personnel, who would be so INCREDIBLE (wink) at the spot and responsibility, back out the funds in question from DOE to the charter, to make up the shortfall the incredible heads at the DOE would have identified, surely if they were there?

    I LOVE YA Kim Williams, but the STATE Auditor can’t be running the books on every Girl Scout troop, when he’s got the whole region and summer camps to run! Bad books can shut a Girl Scout troop down.

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    • Publius e decere

      Wagner is bunk.

      You make a good point, that since DOE insisted on having an emplye on every Budget Committe then let’s hold DOE accountable. This should not relieve any district or charter from a proper audit requirement, but auditors only catch financial-practice problems, not “political” financial practices which is obviously the goal of the blog complaint here.

      Leave fiduciary auditing to the professionals. Which will exclude nearly every Rep and Senator and School Sdministrator and web-Blogger and Blog-Commentor in the state. And Tom Wagner.

      Publius

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  4. The legislators have gutted the Auditors Office, if the legislatures want them to conduct audits of DDOE, school districts and charter schools than they need to provide additional staffing.
    I find it troubling the concern raised about misuse of education funding but voice no concern about the actions of our Medical Examiner and the benefits he received.

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  5. Publius e decere

    “I’ll bet Publius buddies comes in crying, “we don’t receive capital funding”. Wel Kilroy, that was a non sequiter and a dumbaXX statement to boot.

    Kilroy, if you are going to make an argument, then make a good one. This one, which you have lamely made, is not.

    Charter schools are required today to be audited, and they choose capable auditors accordingly and those auditors withstand public scrutiny as to their competence. We can debate whether or not all schools should use a singular auditor. If you want Tom Wagner (aka “forgot to pay my mortgage for two years”) to audit schools you can support your choice and be judged by your choice.

    Most charter schools use well-known and reputable public firms to audit them, according to well-understood government standards, so we are already there. Moving us to a “new” auditing regime is to move us to approval by an ignoble and incapable State Auditor who can not manage his own personal finances, much less the State’s finances, beyond a flimsy paper bag standard.

    Is this really what you want? Tom “HairDo” Wagner who “forgot” to pay his personal home mortage, overooking charter school financial practices?

    Please, tell me that Wagner is not an ally of John Ko-Wall-(no)Know. If they are allies, part of the disparate universe will start to (tragically) coalesce.

    Publius

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  6. Publius e decere

    As for today’s news in the News Journal:

    1. Unions
    Yes, right-to-work is the essence of liberty. Let’s have it.

    2. School Referedums
    Let’s keep them. The only way to tell a district board whether or not we support their spending plans. 60% comes from the state without local input, 30% iderives from local input. It is appropriate and proportionate that the local portion should be subject to the whims and vagaries of the local taxpaying public.

    Publius

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    • Publius e decere

      And if the public denies a referendum, and if that denial results in vast and drastic cost cuts, then that is the public will.

      Publius

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    • lastDEconservative

      ” … right-to-work is the essence of liberty. Let’s have it.”

      Absolutely. But not as the Delaware GOMeToo would have it. Only here in the Republic (I hope, I hope, I hope) could anyone launch an “islands of rights” campaign in an attempt to attract business to said Republic.

      I know, I know, those NYState ads running every night on the business channels, but doesn’t that actually make my point? NYState? That’s our model?

      The really sad part of the GOMeToo contributions to the dialog in DE is that they actually think they are contributing to the dialog. The Dems must struggle to maintain a not-spitting-laughing level of decorum in the state house when such tripe is introduced on other than April Fool’s Day. Yet they persist in such foolishness, all the while bleating (thanks JoKo Ono, for bringing back one of my faves) about their travails as the minority while their conduct makes them about as distinguishable from the majority as one Peep from another.

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    • lastDEconservative

      ” … if the public denies a referendum, and if that denial results in vast and drastic cost cuts, then that is the public will.”

      Therefore, let us impose referenda on the cost of the legislature, the cost of the prison system, the salaries and benefits of the state hands one and all, the cost of studying and acting on sea level rise … ad nauseum … while jobs continue to vanish, roads continue to crumble, kids grow more adept only at drooling …

      Which reminds me. Have we all got our tickets to the Democracy Project indoctrin-, er, education event coming up in June? I’m thinking to go, just the first day, to ask if maybe, just maybe, somewhere in their marketing materials at least, God forbid in the actual curriculum, the Project should at least acknowledge that the America whose civics they crow about teaching … is a Republic.

      After the opinion piece in our rag of a paper today, I’m poking around a little on the website and its links looking for that simple connection to reality as well as any mention of the Biblical and Christian principles behind America’s founding. It did not escape me, though the great unwashed and napping masses would not have missed it, that none of the above did they deem important enough to mention in the piece. So its unlikely that I’ll find any mention of a need to return to that level of fundamental teaching anywhere in the vast webiverse, huh?

      Get your tickets!!!

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    • lastDEconservative

      From the Democracy Project course flyer:

      “My experience at the University of Delaware with The Democracy Project transformed my teaching of civics.”
      —Jill Szymanski,
      Brandywine Springs Elementary School
      Red Clay Consolidated School District 2003 Institute Scholar and 2013 National History Teacher of the Year Award Winner

      I’m struggling with which is scarier; thinking about what a History Dues Payer of the Year taught BEFORE attending or AFTER.

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    • lastDEconservative

      Okay, last one, I promise. Also from the flyer, meant to draw out Angos and his ilk, at minimum:

      Sample of Topics
      • Understanding the Standards • Common Core & Smarter Balance Assessments • Government, Politics, Citizenship, Participation • Campaign Commercials in the Classroom • Lobbyists and Decision-Making • Politics and the Press • Issues in the United States Senate • Delivering Justice • Understanding the State Education Budget

      Practicing politicians, political journalists, lobbyists, and public officials will recount their experiences and challenges and engage scholars in candid discussions.

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    • lastDEconservative

      I swear, Kilroy, with your grand historical family legacy of muskets and tri-corner hats and all, you really ought to get into this Democracy Project fiasco.

      I’m done my research for the day. And maybe for the month. It took all of 6 minutes (aside from admiring some of the primary source material adjoining this lesson plan — drafts of the Declaration, Washington’s personal copy of same) to find this at the top of the first worksheet in the first lesson plan being passed on from the intelligentsia at UD to the sparkling youth soon to pay the vig to the Fred for the privilege of protected employment in the capital S State:
      ________________________________________
      HANDOUT #1 American Values

      Directions: Using the primary sources at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/tr00.html,
      complete the following Frayer models for the values on which our democracy was founded.
      _________________________________________

      ” … on which our democracy was founded.”

      It’s almost as if they don’t want our children to know anything resembling the truth … wait …

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    • Publius e decere

      Nice link — especially the section on The Federalist.

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    • lastDEconservative

      Yeah, it’s a pretty cool site.

      It’s a shame that the young skulls full of mush subjected to this training (not education) are/will be unable to discern either the real value of or the true meaning behind original or primary sources when their educat-, er, teachers standing before them don’t get it themselves, or are willfully misleading, or both.

      ” … on which our democracy was founded.” Indeed. Ol’ Ben Franklin must be rolling over like a chicken on a spit.

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    • love the reveal. PeD is a straight up, tea party thug.

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    • Publius e decere

      JY fails to “get” the basic spoon-fed humor. No surprise.

      “Thug”? Witty (not). A district reflects its leadership. Sad leader, sad results.

      So here is something to work on:

      CSD enrollment declining over the past ten years. Significant enrollment cohort declines after 5th grade and after 8th grade. Face reality, this is a decade-established trend with no end in sight.

      Reacting to the above, for CSD:

      1. Take the deal from DOE and divest Nominating District 1 in its entirety. Let it go to “Wilmington”, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial. CSD has never properly served the City so take the deal and exit gracefully,

      2. Sell the idle vacant Astro Power industrial facility. CSD bought it on speculative demand, but after nearly a decade of sitting idle (at district operating expense and the forfeit of property tax) it is time to face reality — no demand in sight — so sell it for what the market will bear. A few million of cash will go a long way toward mitigating the need for a tax increase.

      3. Take a hard look at the high school facilities and the inefficie nt use of square footage per student. You could easily consolidate Glasgow and Christiana into one campus, especially after the forfeit of the District_1 in Wilmington. Jilting one campus could save millions for the district.

      4. Engage an analytic professional to understand in detail why your district is massively losing students. Why are families NOT choosing CSD schools? What would have to change so that they WOULD choose CSD schools? Present these results to the board, the administration and the union and then set a hard knuckles goal to meet the public demand come heck or high water. Upgrade facilities, make sensible amendments to employee pay and work rules, cut ideology from board member stump speeches. And most importantly, organize the entire district around student achievement results — get them, or get another job — from Superintendent to Sanitation Engineer . And yes, part of that get-results mindset is getting the public’s support (taxes) which means getting the result of making a compelling case to the public for those taxes.

      Any reasonable MBA should have already grasped the essence of what is needed and acted to enact it. Let the Titanic leaders leave, and recruit the Warren Buffet leaders we need.

      Publius

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  7. Wasn’t it just a few months ago the democrats saying we don’t even need an elected state auditor?

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  8. it’s too bad captain obvious from the hotels.com commercials isnt here to comment for kowalko and minnehan – of course Kendall massette is a charter supporter – what’s her freaking job?!?!?

    That’s like saying Sam lathem supports unions.

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