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Audit: U.S. oversight of charter school funding is lax

Florida has created a new web-based system to more closely monitor charter school grant expenditures.

An audit of the U.S. Department of Education’s division overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars in charter school funding has criticized the office for failing to properly monitor how states spend the money.

The report, released in late September by the department’s Office of the Inspector General, also singled out state education departments in California, Florida, and Arizona for lax monitoring of what charter schools do with the funds and whether their expenditures comply with federal regulations.

The education department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement spent $940 million from 2008 to 2011 on charter schools, which are autonomously operated public schools. Most of the money is funneled through state education departments, although some is given directly to charter schools.

The funds are administered through competitive grants aimed at helping launch new charters and replicate successful charter models.

The inspector general said the innovation office has not given proper guidance to states on monitoring the use of the money and does not have policies to ensure that states corrected deficiencies when they were found.

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Additionally, the audit, which was conducted by San Francisco-based education research company WestEd, found that the office did not review expenditures to ensure they met with federal disbursement requirements.

The office has agreed to beef up its procedures to track federal funds and ensure states are adequately overseeing charter schools, the report said.

WestEd also examined state charter oversight policies in California, Arizona, and Florida, which collectively received $275 million in federal funds for charter schools from 2008 to 2011.

Among the findings:

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