CEA has repeatedly drawn attention to the lack of financial accountability and oversight for charter management organizations (CMOs) in Connecticut. Despite concerns raised by CEA at yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting about the exceedingly high rates of chronic absenteeism at Stamford Academy and the questionable fees charged by its CMO, the board went ahead with a renewal of the contract between the charter and its CMO, Domus Kids, Inc.
This is the not the first Connecticut charter school run by a CMO to face concerns over its operating procedures. Just last month, the State Board of Education began the revocation process for Path Academy Charter in Windham after the State Department of Education uncovered shocking practices at the school that include defrauding the state of nearly $1.6 million, billing the state for 128 phantom students, operating unauthorized schools, and tolerating excessive absenteeism.
“Undoubtedly, supporters of CMOs will argue that the situation at Path Academy is unique and not characteristic of other CMOs. This contradicts the facts,” CEA Research and Policy Development Specialist and Economist Orlando Rodriguez told board members. “The calculation of the service fee for the proposed contract between Stamford Academy and Domus Kids, Inc. violates statutes. Stamford Charter School for Excellence is another example of insufficient accountability and transparency. This charter has a relationship with a CMO in New York City, but the nature of that relationship is not defined. It should interest the board that Stamford Charter School for Excellence pays a 13 percent management fee. To whom? For what services?”
Rodriguez added, “These irregularities are a wake-up call that some of our charter schools have improper relationships with CMOs and/or are poor stewards of taxpayer money. This harms all of the state’s K-12 students.”
Just three years ago, the State Board of Education was forced to take action against a different charter school and its CMO. An investigative report into Jumoke Academy and FUSE uncovered shocking financial wrongdoing, nepotism, and questionable real estate deals among other practices.
CEA represents teachers at well-run charters that spend taxpayer money to the full benefit of their students. The “service fee” that CMOs require from their charters, however, raises concerns as there is no accountability or transparency for how those taxpayer funds are spent.
Danbury and Ridgefield to Make Up Days Next Year
Also at yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting, the board gave waivers from the 180 school day requirement to Danbury and Ridgefield. Because of days lost to recent severe weather, both districts cannot reach the 180 day requirement by June 29.
As the state does not allow districts to hold regular classes in July, the waiver by the State Board grants the districts the ability to make up the missed school days next school year.