COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Dozens of Ohio charter schools have collectively failed to repay the state more than $6 million in misspent tax dollars, according to the state auditor.
Audits of charter school finances for 2008 to 2014 revealed improper spending by about 40 of the taxpayer-funded, privately operated schools, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1jXBr4s) reported.
The audits were performed after the U.S. Department of Education decided on Nov. 3 to put a hold on a $71 million grant to Ohio to support new charter schools citing concerns that the Ohio Department of Education’s grant application didn’t accurately reflect problems experienced in its oversight office.
School Choice Director David Hansen, who drafted the state’s application, acknowledged over the summer that he omitted failing grades of some online charter schools from state evaluations of charter school overseers. He told the state school board he didn’t want to “mask” successes elsewhere.
Hansen has since resigned and the evaluations reflecting his omissions were retracted.
Federal regulators expressed concerns and wanted assurances that the grant money would be spent responsibly.
“A majority of the unresolved findings for recovery are against individuals who operated or worked at the schools, and many of these schools are now closed,” according to the report that Ohio Superintendent Richard Ross recently submitted to federal officials.
Ross, who is retiring at the end of the year, has promised that the state would use the grant money to open high-quality public charter schools across the state.
According to the report Ross submitted last week, State Auditor Dave Yost’s office conducted more than 2,000 audits of charter schools. Of those, 347 sought to recover misspent funds.
Officials said Friday that a federal review is ongoing.