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It's Time for Charter School Accountability Reform

Photos from press conference

Phoenix, AZ – February 6, 2018 – Last week the news reported two stories providing an excellent lesson on accountability and transparency for schools receiving public funding. One case involved the Scottsdale Unified School District CFO resigning for allegedly engaging in fraud and self-dealing. The other case was the Discovery Creemos Academy, formerly known as Bradley Academy of Excellence, whose CEO also allegedly committed fraud and self-dealing. The difference is the first case involves thousands of dollars in a local school district, and the CFO is under investigation and could face penalties. Whereas, the second case involves millions of dollars, and the CEO is not under investigation and may still operate charter schools in Arizona.

“Our students are the ones who suffer when we don’t hold charter schools accountable,” says Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Joe Thomas. “Hundreds of students and their parents found themselves scrambling when Discovery Creemos Academy decided to close its doors without notice in the middle of the school year. This is not the first time a charter school has done this. If the Arizona Legislature does not pass legislation that addresses this problem, then our students will continue to be at risk of having their education interrupted, and we will continue to see waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money by charter school operators.”

“The closure of Discovery Creemos Academy was not a surprise to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, which is responsible for oversight of the state’s charter schools,” says Jim Hall, retired school principal and founder of charter school watchdog group, Arizonans for Charter School Accountability. “The Board knew the Academy was in financial trouble and was aware of CEO Daniel Hughes’ unprecedented level of self-dealing from an audit conducted in 2016. They reported Hughes to the Attorney General for suspicion of fraud nearly a year later, but they don’t have any power to close charter schools for financial trouble. The State Auditor General pursues state agencies that misspend tax dollars – such as the case in Scottsdale, but when it comes to charters, by state law, the Auditor is not allowed to even review charter school spending.”

“Scottsdale residents should be concerned that their bond monies are being used appropriately and not mired in a conflict of interest. Just as taxpayers across Arizona should be concerned about the potential conflicts of interest plaguing 77 percent of charter schools due to the high rate of related-party transactions,” says Dave Wells, Research Director at centrist think tank the Grand Canyon Institute (GCI). “Last year, GCI produced a policy report, “Following the Money: Twenty Years of Charter School Finances in Arizona”, that revealed up to 77 percent of Arizona’s charter school holders use their state taxpayer funds for potentially questionable related-party financial transactions. Unlike public district schools, nearly all charter schools in Arizona operate outside the rules of the public procurement process, freeing them from the need to conduct competitive bidding.”

Yesterday, the House Education Committee passed House Bill 2460, a bill that would force school districts to sell vacant school buildings to charter schools. We call on our state’s leaders to give our bills a hearing in committee. Thank you to Arizona state Senators David Bradley and Martin Quezada, and state Representatives Isela Blanc, Randy Friese, and Athena Salman for introducing legislation that will protect our students and public money from more charter school fraud, waste, and abuse.

Charter School Accountability Reform Bill Package:

Speaker Bios:

Joe Thomas, President of the Arizona Education Association
For the 20 years prior to becoming AEA President, Thomas has been a public school teacher, most recently as a government teacher at Skyline High School in Mesa. Thomas believes a free public education system is important to the prosperity of our society. Thomas is an Arizona State Board of Education Certification Advisory Committee member and previously served on the School District Redistricting Commission from 2005 – 2008.
Contact: 602-264-1774 or

Jim Hall, Arizonans for Charter School Accountability
Jim Hall is a retired public school principal. He served in public education for 30 years.  
Contact: 602-717-3961 or 

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Dave Wells, Research Director of the Grand Canyon Institute
Dave Wells helped found the Grand Canyon Institute in 2011.  He holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Public Policy and has been on the faculty of Arizona State University since 1998.  He is also the Arizona representative to the Western States Budget Roundtable for the Western Political Science Association, succeeding David Berman.  His annual report on the state budget is published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy. 
Contact: 602-595-1025 ext.2 or

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