A recently-closed charter school in Dayton, Ohio now owes taxpayers close to $1.2 million after it was found to have falsified its attendance records and received state funding for students who never attended the school.
An investigation by state Auditor Dave Yost found that almost half of the reported 459 students enrolled at General Chappie James Leadership Academy had either never attended the school or had already left the school. Of the alleged students found by investigators, some had been incarcerated, moved out of state, or had been working and not attending school.
"If you have 3 percent or 5 percent of your student population doesn't have documentation, that may be bad record keeping," Yost said today at a Statehouse press conference to release results of the yearlong probe. "When nearly half of your kids don't have a file, don't have documentation, that's not a mistake, that's not bad record keeping, that's fraud."
Yost went on to say that on average, 30 students actually reported to school each day. That number reflects an increased rate of absenteeism at the school, which had 239 documented students, writes Catherine Candisky for The Columbus Dispatch.
Charter schools in the state receive funding based on the number of students in attendance. "Nearly half of them didn't exist at all," Yost said.
The audit is also asking for repayment to be made by Kecia Williams, the academy's former director, for overpayments that happened over the course of three years, ending on June 30, 2014. However, recovering that money could prove to be challenging, as the school closed one year ago after its sponsor dropped its support during a series of investigations into the school.
Results of the investigation have been handed over to the Montgomery County Prosecutor's office for review. It is possible that criminal charges could be handed down.
Kids Count of Dayton, the sponsor of the school, was recently banned from authorizing the opening of any more schools by the Department of Education until improvements to its oversights are made. The sponsor, which oversees six charter schools in the state, was rated "ineffective" by the state's evaluation system.
An investigation by the Ohio Department of Education found that only 21% of students enrolled in Kids Count schools were in "effective" schools.
Yost went on to say that cases such as this one prove the importance of reforming charter school accountability laws in Ohio. "This illustrates the need for Ohio's rickety system of oversight to be reformed," he said.