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Pa. Charter School Audit Finds $550,000 of Improper Lease Payouts

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An audit of charter schools in Pennsylvania has found that six charters received about $550,000 in improper lease reimbursements, among other violations, over the past seven years.

The audit, headed up by state auditor general Eugene DePasquale, found that the schools received lease reimbursements for facilities that were owned by the charter organizations themselves or related entities, raising conflict of interest concerns from the auditors. Some of the schools were ineligible for the reimbursements they received because they were using modular classrooms, which should not have been included in the reimbursement. The names of the charter schools in violation of the lease reimbursement conditions, the amount of money they received in error, and links to the full audits of each school, according to DePasquale are as follows:

School Lane Charter School in Bensalem, $60,248;
Fell Charter School in Carbondale, $94,266;
Roberto Clemente Charter School in Allentown, $191,267;
Bear Creek Community Charter School in Bear Creek Township, $106,332;
Keystone Education Center Charter School in Greenville, $85,375; and
Evergreen Community Charter School in Cresco, $20,360

Some of the schools were also found in violation of meeting certification rules for teachers, principals, and staff. Additionally, some did not file proper tax forms or provide the required student data information to the state department of education, the audit found.

The audit was inspired by a 2010 audit from the Philadelphia's Office of the Controller which identified similar fiscal violations in the city's charter schools. That report found that 81 percent of the city's charter schools failed to file their proper documents such as the charter school application, the charter school agreement, articles of incorporation, and proof of insurance.

Ten out of the 13 charter schools that the 2010 audit investigated were found to be receiving lease reimbursements for buildings they leased from related entities, which the audit said raises questions about "the appropriateness of the agreements." It also found a lack of oversight of the charter schools by the school district of Philadelphia and the district's charter school office.

In a statement, auditor general DePasquale called on the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to work with his office to find a solution to the problems raised in the audit. Calls to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Schools were not immediately returned.

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