Using millions of Connecticut taxpayer dollars meant to educate children, charter management organizations (CMOs) are lining their own pockets. According to a shocking new report detailing the financial data of Connecticut charter schools, some CMOs are profiting from state taxpayer dollars allocated for students, with little or no oversight or transparency as to how the money is being used.
“These CMOs are shaking down the State of Connecticut,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen, “and using money earmarked for our students to line their own pockets—profiting off the backs of our children and state taxpayers. Our schools and teachers are always working hard to do what’s best for students, but these CMOs are doing anything but.”
The report, Corporate-Style Charter Schools in Connecticut, prepared by Rodriguez Data Solutions LLC, uncovered disturbing examples of financial malfeasance at charter schools operated by two CMOs. In particular, Achievement First, Inc.—which charges a 13 percent cut off the top of the $11,000 per-pupil funding it receives from the state—pocketed $5.3 million in state funds allocated for students in FY 2016.
While Connecticut residents have been forced to dig deeper into their pockets to pay higher taxes to help the state balance the budget and fund important services, Achievement First has continued to increase fees, pocketing millions of dollars in state funds.
“It is unconscionable that Achievement First’s management fees have increased 139 percent or $3 million over a five year-period. Achievement First is getting rich off funds that should be used for our children, and taking valuable tax dollars away from schools that need them,” said CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg.
“The best charter schools in the state do not pilfer funds away from students,” Waxenberg said, referring to the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication in New London and the Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich, the state’s first charter school, founded by CEA—as well as 13 others that operate successfully without management organizations or outrageous management fees.
“Instead of cutting millions of dollars in education funding to local school districts, we have to stop wasting money and stop giving taxpayer dollars to millionaires operating charter schools in Connecticut,” added Cohen.
Orlando Rodriguez, an independent research analyst and author of the report, said, “The two CMOs analyzed in this report lack sufficient oversight and transparency and fail to disclose adequate information about their financial operations. The data suggests they are making quite a bit of profit even though they are technically considered non-profit.”