Giving Compass' Take:

Many of California's charter schools are failing to be completely transparent by not reporting how much money is spent on students who need assistance. A nonprofit organization called Public Advocates is holding schools accountable for the funding gaps and released a report urging for more restrictions and oversight when it comes to charter school funding. 

• What are the next steps for charter schools to respond to the question of accountability and do you think that any changes in funding will happen because of this report? 

• Read more about the challenges with charter school accountability and how charter schools, in general, are performing. 

The vast majority of California’s charter schools sampled for a study failed to fully disclose how they spent money on students targeted for assistance under the state’s funding formula. Some didn’t account for any of that funding, as the state requires, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit law and advocacy organization Public Advocates.

Public Advocates is urging tighter oversight and stricter regulations for charter schools, similar to the requirements imposed on school districts. The report concludes that these changes are needed to ensure clearer accounting for spending and greater parent involvement in the creation of the key accountability document that districts and charter schools must complete annually.  Called Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs, they set academic and school improvement goals and actions to achieve them.

“We find charter school engagement, transparency and accountability woefully lacking to such a degree that it is sometimes impossible to determine how charter schools are spending millions of dollars” that should be used to improve the education of “high-needs” students drawing extra money, Public Advocates wrote. Those students include low-income, foster and homeless children and English learners.

Public Advocates discovered significant variations in LCAP compliance among charter schools. In the aggregate, it found:

  • No charter school examined properly documented how it was increasing or improving services for high need students, as the law creating the funding formula requires.
  • Nine schools documented how they planned to spend at least 75 percent of the funds generated by high-needs students for programs and services for those students. Public Advocates said it could find documentation for only a third of the $48.6 million the 43 schools received specifically for high-needs students.

Read the full article about charter school transparency by John Fensterwald at EdSource