Charter school fiscal reporting failures fuel frown from Ohio Auditor

According to Gongwer (subscription only), Progress Ohio, and this article in the Canton Repository, Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor found “financial reporting irregularities, bad bookkeeping, misrepresentation of financial statements, and outright fraud at some community schools operating in this state.”

FYI: Here’s the ORC provisions that outline the state auditor’s authority and expectations (for performing the auditor job).

The questions:

Why do charter school personnel need the training that Auditor Mary Taylor is quoted as saying will be provided?

Specifically, why do charter school personnel need training sessions that will “…better inform fiscal officers on regulations for record retention and financial reporting. The sessions will also cover: audit preparation; compliance; grant restrictions; budgeting; and reporting requirements of the state’s K-12 database collection, the Education Management Information System (EMIS).”

Why do charter school operators not already hire individuals who can do all that, who know all that? Ohioans voted for an auditor who stressed her CPA as being relevant and valuable. Why on Earth are Ohioans satisfied to let millions and millions of dollars go to charter schools that cannot meet financial recordkeeping needs?

Next: I’m glad that Audtior Taylor feels “…compelled to offer community school officials the tools they need to appropriately account for every tax dollar they receive.”

But does she also feel compelled to contact the Attorney General and report the breaches? Does she also feel compelled to have a legislative liaison report all this to the Ohio legislature and say, enough – you need to create and demand and ensure better oversight of charter schools?

Apparently, according to Gongwer, the auditor’s office already works with “…the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Association of School Business Officials on yearly fiscal training and accountability issues for traditional schools.” The legislature created charter schools, aka community schools – why wasn’t such a parallel connection for fiscal training and accountability issues for community schools created at that time?

This issue always causes me to lament how the Legislative Office of Education Oversight was shutdown by the legislature in 8/05.

Argh.

Next: It’s common sense that an auditor would want to keep costs of the training low, but I don’t know why this would be a voluntary program and why she would only “encourage” broader participation, although the ORC sections about auditor training programs may be a constraint on making them mandatory. Still, any community school that she finds to be in trouble should be required to attend, though of course I can’t figure out why or whether they’re required to hired personnel who can perform their jobs in the first place so that the training isn’t needed.

Before a ton of anonymi show up saying that charters live by a double-standard because they get closed if they don’t perform and yet public schools never close schools, that’s a specious argument and you know it so don’t bother – unless you can prove what you’re saying rather than repeating rhetoric. My blogger bandwidth is going to be met someday I assume and I’d prefer it be saved for real debate.

Finally, the specific response by Taylor to what she found will be summer offerings in a State Community School Training Program. In addition to keeping costs low, the Canton article says, “Depending on how effective the workshops are, Taylor said she may expand their availability to public school officials.”

Huh? Either school personnel need the training because they don’t know what they’re doing or what to do. Or they don’t need the training. What is this thing about no training for public schools unless the training is effective with the voluntarily attending charter school personnel? I just don’t get that – maybe more explanation would help? (there’s nothing on the auditor’s site yet about the program)

Okay – sigh. Have fun. Tell me what is right and what is wrong in this picture.

6 thoughts on “Charter school fiscal reporting failures fuel frown from Ohio Auditor

  1. Daniel, SAB: I think we agree that auditing the schools – public, which, technically include charters, is a good thing. I think we also agree that the two types of schools, because they use public funds, should not be treated differently, at any level – yes?So why have we tolerated such different treatment of the two for so long?

  2. Interesting comments, King. What exactly would a performance audit entail? Would that be different than the current report card stuff we get? Tx.

  3. Well…..Jill – I agree and don’t agree with you ( Surprise huh? 🙂 )You bring up some good questions regarding this, here is my take.I feel the packaging of these programs for charters is done in a “Nice” way. With voluntary participation and offering avenues for charters to correct their own problems and to learn what is required of them, Taylor then places herself in a position to better deal with them when they screw up.Being free and voluntary, they will have no excuses for not taking advantage of it. They will have no excuse for NOT knowing something. I do agree that charter & public schools should not hire someone that needs remedial training in things such as this. But we know that both entities do not always hire qualified personnel.Tons of bandwidth could be used to debate the why fiscal training and accountability were not in place at the inception of charter schools. But it wasn’t and should have been.To be honest creation of the charters would have been a no brainer to me – we have “rules & requirements” for public schools, charters should be held to the same or higher standard.I spoke with a gentleman in the auditors office on Friday afternoon regarding some local school issues. I came away with the feeling that if the auditors office had the money and the man power, they would offer more training and would do more audits.You state any community school found to be “in trouble” should be required to attend these training programs. I have to ask what about public schools?In my opinion our school had a terrible year end audit. We had, if I remember correctly, 22 of 34 accounts over spent and 11 findings against the school’s accounting practices. One account was over spent by $1 million dollars. But since there were no findings of missing money, everything was OK.Should a public school with an audit like this not be forced to participate in re training?SAB is incorrect on many points. The auditors office will come out for free to discuss with schools their accounting practices and are willing to come and speak with districts on what they offer and how to improve.Private schools dipping further into the public purse – PLEASE!!!The public schools have been raping the public purse for quite some time now.Taylor a hack – not even close! But I won’t get drawn into that argument. When it comes to children, partisan politics has no place.While I am a strong supporter of public education, I feel it has wretchedly failed the masses. Charter schools and vouchers offer a much needed alternative for parents.Before anyone can cry foul against the public school districts, performance audits should be conducted on all 613 school districts.The questions I would like answered from elected officials (Blue & Red), NEA, teachers unions, etc….. is this -How can throwing more money at a problem be a successful solution?How can funding be fixed and monies dispersed if you don’t know where the waste is?The blogosphere and residents of Ohio, need to demand performance audits for all the public school districts & charter schools. While a monumental task and sure to meet resistance from educators, unions, school districts etc…, it is the first step in restoring public confidence in the schools.These performance audits will show where schools are not running efficient and expose the wasteful spending to name a few. They will also create a much needed transparency of spending and can hopefully restore the public confidence in our schools.This combined with the new push to fix school funding, will create an accurate road map in our quest to improve the education in Ohio.King

  4. Mary Taylor is a political hack, but even she is not enough of a hack to say that there are no deficiencies in charter school reporting. Instead, she comes up with a proposal to allow these private schools to dip even further into the public purse.

  5. Why should charter schools get additional training on reporting? Isn’t it their responsibility to know their reporting requirements? Ms. Taylor’s office’s responsibility is to point out their deficiencies in reporting. The public schools don’t get additional training at state expense if they make errors in reporting- they just get their funding cut. I especially have a problem with the for-profit schools getting additional training. Shouldn’t that come out of their own budgets and profits?

  6. Here’s what’s right about the picture: Mary Taylor has publicly stated the inadequacies of charter school accounting. At one point, you were worried that her campaign contributions from White Hat would blind her from finding these accounting problems. It seems that she is capable of finding charters out of compliance despite the campaign contributions.You are right, though, there needs to be more follow through. Charters need to make corrections pronto, and be in compliance on an ongoing basis. Consequences for non-compliance ought to be clearly articulated, appropriately severe according to the severity of the infractions, and carried out resolutely when warranted.

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