What could $30 million lost dollars mean to students in Pennsylvania? Maybe more teachers, more textbooks, better classrooms? Well, forget about it, because at least that much is in the pockets of corrupt charter school operators.
The waste and fraud in Pennsylvania charter schools is even worse than I thought. It was bad enough when Nicholas Trombetta created a nice pyramid to skim off millions in public education money to fund his own fun, but it seems he was more the rule than the exception.
The instances of fraud cited in the new report include cases where charter officials were indicted or pleaded guilty and instances uncovered in state audits.
Examples include Nicholas Trombetta, founder and former CEO of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Midland, who is awaiting federal trial in Pittsburgh on charges that he diverted $8 million in school funds for personal use.
The tally also includes $6.3 million that federal prosecutors allege Dorothy June Brown defrauded from the four Philadelphia-area charters she founded.
But the authors give special attention to another recent case involving a city charter: New Media Technology Charter School in the city's Stenton section. The former CEO and founding board president went to federal prison in 2012 after admitting they stole $522,000 in taxpayer money to prop up a restaurant, a health-food store, and a private school they controlled, and for defrauding a bank.
From 2005 to 2009, when the crimes were occurring, third-party auditors hired by New Media failed to spot the fraudulent payments.
"Fraud detection in Pennsylvania charter schools should not be dependent upon parent complaints, media exposés, and whistle-blowers," the authors wrote. Rather, they urged, the system should be proactive and use forensic accounting methods.
But that would mean Tom Corbett couldn't make his sweet deals with the charter operators! Perish the thought.
What we have here is the sale of our public schools by Republicans to for-profit concerns who are perfectly content to take taxpayers' money to pad their own bottom lines while making sure our children 'isn't learning.'