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Paul Muschick on charter school’s hypocrisy: Public funding, secret spending

I often hear charter schools and their supporters say they are unfairly criticized. Well, here’s an opportunity for one school to build some credibility with the public, and set an example for others.A $4 million gym recently opened at Executive Education Academy Charter School in Allentown. If that gym was at an Allentown School District building, the public would have the right to see how every penny was spent.But the charter school, which gets taxpayer money, doesn’t want to disclose construction spending details, which were sought by Morning Call reporter Jacqueline Palochko.The school rejected her request for the records under the state Right-to-Know Law. The school says it doesn’t possess the records because it didn’t build the gym. It says the construction was done by the building’s owner, the Executive Education Academy Charter School Foundation, and the school is merely a rent-paying tenant.The charter school argues that the foundation is a separate, private, nonprofit entity that doesn’t perform a “governmental function” for the school, so it doesn’t have to cough up those records.Thankfully, the state Office of Open Records rejected that shell game. It said the foundation and the school essentially are the same operation. It’s hard to argue otherwise when the charter school CEO also is the charter school foundation president, and the foundation’s articles of incorporation say it was formed to further the mission of the school.On Tuesday, the state ordered the school to obtain the spending records from the foundation and give them to The Morning Call.”Because the foundation constitutes an alter ego of the charter school, the records possessed by the foundation are also constructively possessed by the charter school,” appeals officer Joshua Young wrote in his ruling.State: Foundation acts as ‘alter ego’ for Allentown charter school and must provide information to Morning CallThe charter school can appeal the decision to Lehigh County court. It shouldn’t. Doing so would just give the public more reason to distrust it, not to mention waste money on legal fees that would be better spent on students.Charter schools are quick to remind critics that they are public schools. This is an opportunity for this one to act like it, and provide spending details like public school districts are obliged to under the Right-to-Know Law.Regardless of who is spending the money, it’s being spent on public education. So the public has a right to know about it. It’s time for all charter schools and their foundations to recognize that. If they won’t, hopefully this case will force them to.Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or paul.muschick@mcall.com
Source: Morningcall

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