Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shocking semi-example of accountability with DC charter school corruption (but still mishandled)

Last week, DC's Public School Charter Board voted to rescind the charter of the Community Academy Public Charter School group ("DC Charter School Board revokes charter for Height Community Academy Public Charter Schools," Post) because Kent Amos, the founder-director, was using related corporations to "manage"' the school and pay himself about $1 million/year ("D.C. officials allege improper diversion of charter funds," Post).   Sadly, parents were advocating for Amos and the schools, in face of the corruption.

While I think that was a somewhat sound move because of the corruption, rather than withdrawing the charter, if the schools are in fact high quality, I think they should have been able to put the school in receivership, keep it going, and put out for bid new management.

2.  Today's Post has an article ("DC charter school executive salaries vary widely, Post analysis shows") about varying salaries, many outlandish, of charter school personnel.  Many principals/school leaders make significantly higher salaries than DCPS equivalents, including school leaders who make more than the Chancellor (who is overpaid too, given that DC's student population is about 1/3 of that of the area's largest school districts).

3.  Note that this issue of related businesses and management contracts of various sorts to mis/direct money for private gain is not new.  It's been around probably since the beginning of the schools (e.g., I know of a case where the Charter School's founder has a separate company that handles the transportation needs for the school, and I can't believe that's the only example).

But the Charter School Board claims that they can't force private entities to disclose information about their financial arrangements with the schools ("Charter board could close school amid allegations that leader diverted money," Post).

The basic problem seems to be that the "contracts" between the school and "the city" which are not between "the city" and the charter schools but are with the Public Charter School Board--which is appointed, with limited oversight--FAIL TO INCLUDE SOME OF THE MOST BASIC PROVISIONS TO PROTECT LOCAL INTERESTS.

Since the bulk of school funding comes from "the city" and the schools are public, there should be protections and standards in place to protect the city's interest.  This should include:

- ownership of the building
- ceilings on salaries
- restrictions on the creation of allied but "separate" corporations to provide services and siphon funds
- financial disclosure requirements
- etc.

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At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

are charter schools going to help DC to retain the affluent people that have moved here int he past 10 years or so- when they decide to have families? As it stands now- you are risking the life of your child to send them to any DCPS that is junior high or up- except for just one or two good schools. DC seriously needs to do soemthing about the public schools and to stop wasting money on lining the pockets of Vincent Grey's cronies who are all involved in this charter school mess

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

also this:

Which is something you have harped on.

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

I joke that I am not scintillating and super original, but still am 5-8 years ahead of the curve.

I'd call this an "after action report." (They claim they do them in the military to get better, but do they really improve?)

If we had a more robust and independent CIP planning process, she's right, some of this would be less problematic.

2. I was thinking about this because of the W4 special election and the website with questions. One was on the city's budget and how the bonding capacity is close to being fully absorbed.

Think how much would still be there if we were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on unnecessary capital projects.

Thanks for sending this.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

wrt anon's comment, I'd say the problem has existed ever since the charter school parallel process was created. Remember back to Mary Anigbo? And another school that was created by people with a criminal background, just to get $?

2. But charters will probably help to retain high income families. Their kids will probably still perform relatively well regardless of setting. And the parents will feel better about the placement because they'll be more engaged and involved in selecting it.

DC's regular schools probably aren't all that great. E.g., Wilson. But to really know, we'd have to drill down in the data by economic class.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Well I've always said the trick in politics is to be ahead of everyone by six months, not by 10 years.

You probably don't read Matt Levine, but you should!

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Think how much would still be there if we were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on unnecessary capital projects."

Huh? Did you mean to say "if we WEREN'T spending hundreds of millions..."? Doesn't make sense otherwise.

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bottom line (apologies, couldn't help myself) is that it all comes down to money and politics in the end. That's what you get as a society when "capitalism" is the civic framework.

"THE world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers"



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