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$1 Billion Wasted by DeVos and Department of Education on Charter Schools

April 5, 2019

New Report Coauthored by Our Schools Chief Correspondent Jeff Bryant Highlighted in Congressional Hearing on $1 Billion Wasted in Federal Charter School Grant Program
A recent hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives made headlines when Democratic members grilled U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about her budget proposing huge cuts to programs—including Special Olympics, after-school programs, and special education—while calling for a double-digit increase for the department’s charter school grant program.

Referring to a new report, which Our Schools Chief Correspondent Jeff Bryant co-authored with the Network for Public Education, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, told DeVos in the hearing, “It baffles me that you found room for a $60 million increase to the Charter School Program… especially when you consider recent reports of waste and abuse in the program.”

Representative Mark Pocan, Democrat of Wisconsin, referring to the same report, asked DeVos what was being done about federal funds wasted on charter schools that never opened or opened and quickly closed.

The report, titled “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride,” found that up to $1 billion awarded by the U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program—in more than 1,000 grants—was wasted on charter schools that never opened or opened for only brief periods before being shut down for mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment, and fraud.

The report has been the subject of high-profile news stories and commentaries in national media outlets such as The Washington PostEducation WeekThe Progressive magazine, Truthdig, and Forbes, as well as state and local news sites in ConnecticutIdahoLouisiana, and North Carolina.

The report calls for a moratorium on any new grants coming from the federal Charter Schools Program and a thorough audit of money that has been spent.

Our Schools goes to the frontlines of the nationwide effort to privatize and undermine the public education system. It exposes the false promises of charter schools, voucher programs, and corporate-style reforms and spotlights how communities are fighting back and often succeeding against the school privatization agenda.

new report issued by the Network for Public Education provides a detailed accounting of how charter schools have scammed the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) for up to $1 billion in wasted grant money that went to charters that never opened or opened for only brief periods of time before being shut down for mismanagement, poor performance, lack of enrollment, or fraud. The report also found many of the charters receiving grant awards that managed to stay open fall far short of the grant program’s avowed mission to create “high-quality” schools for disadvantaged students.

President Trump’s 2020 budget blueprint proposes increasing funding for the charter grant program by 13.6 percent, from $440 to $500 million, and education secretary Betsy DeVos praised this increase as a step forward for “education freedom.” But the report finds that increasing federal funds for this program would mostly continue to perpetuate academic fraud.

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