For Immediate Release
July 10, 2014
Contact: Brian Dries
Charter Schools Improve Business Practices Based on
Controller Butkovitz’ Recommendations
City Controller releases follow-up report on Charter School Oversight
PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released a follow-up report of the School District of Philadelphia’s Charter School Oversight that found several schools have made significant improvements in line with recommendations made in the Controller’s 2010 report.
This includes Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, at which the following conditions from the Controller’s prior report no longer existed: a weekend night club operating inside the school, a CFO who was collecting multiple salaries and pension credits, and a construction contract where the company’s owner was related to the CFO but the school failed to include the relationship on the IRS Form 990.
“These changes show that our prior investigative report had a major impact on this charter school,” said Butkovitz. “Harambee took the opportunity to act on our recommendations and subsequently made the necessary improvements.”
Along with Harambee, the other four charter schools examined that were included in the original 13 schools from the 2010 report included: Mathematics, Civic and Sciences Charter School, People for People Charter School, New Foundations Charter School, and Multi-Cultural Academy Charter School.
Previous concerns with corporate separateness and relationships with associated non-profits were partially resolved as charter school administrators advised that the board members or executives that held positions within both entities had resigned or assumed non-voting roles. However, with Mathematics, Civics and Sciences and People for People, the Controller’s Office was unable to verify specific board members or meeting minutes because they were still not being recorded as required by Pennsylvania Law.
“Charter schools and their associated non-profits need to make it a priority to clearly document all board meeting minutes,” said Butkovitz. “This ensures that the schools and non-profits are transparent in making financial and educational decisions.”
Additionally, the Controller’s Office examined documentation that is required to be maintained by the District’s Charter School Office, which is charged with providing oversight of all charter schools. All of the requested documentation was provided to the Controller’s staff, whereas in the prior review most of the documents could not be located.
“The Charter School Office has improved its ability to maintain necessary files,” said Butkovitz. “However, the Office is still providing minimal oversight of charter school operations except during the charter renewal process.”
During the time of the Controller’s review, the Charter School Office did not have a director and was functioning with four full-time employees. Audit Services, the unit responsible for conducting charter school audits, had two auditors for all 86 charter schools.
According to Controller Butkovitz, as indicated in our 2010 report, legislative policies should be reviewed by the General Assembly to improve oversight and accountability.
“In most cases, charter schools are operating under the guidelines set forth under the Commonwealth’s Charter School Law,” said Butkovitz. “Some practices such as certain leasing arrangements might be questionable, but they are not violating the current law.”
The Controller’s Office will continue to monitor Philadelphia’s charter schools’ operations.