Elsewhere online
December 10, 2014

Charter School Deals 'Sweep' Money to Management Firms

Amid growing scrutiny of financial ties between nonprofit charter schools and management companies, ProPublica reports on "sweeps" contracts under which nearly all of a school's taxpayer funding goes to a private firm. Under such deals, so called because the money is "swept" to an outside entity, the contractor handles a school's day-to-day operations, in some cases including hiring teachers, finding a site, and managing finances.

Critics say the contracts cede control of public money to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in taxpayers' or schools' interest and are shielded from regulatory oversight of their spending. "It's really just a pass-through for for-profit entities," said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs, Colo., who works with charter schools.

The article describes schools operated by a large management firm, National Heritage Academies. Jennifer Hoff, a company spokeswoman, said the firm "relieves our partner [charter-school] boards of all financial, operational, and academic risks—a significant burden that ultimately defeats many charter schools," and that it complies with state and federal regulations, "including everything related to transparency."