As a result of financial mismanagement, declining reenrollment and mounting debt, over 100 Arizona charter schools are in danger of closing their doors.
The news comes on the heels of a new report from the centrist think-tank, The Grand Canyon Institute.
GCI sifted through charter school finances between 2014 and 2017, and unveiled that 105 charter schools were losing more than $400 per student, per year. That’s the metric the state uses for takeover in a public school district.
According to the study, dozens of charter school operators were allowed to borrow money against projected future enrollments to finance construction of new facilities, but students the projected number of students fell short of reality.
During the four-year period, over a third of Arizona charter schools experienced a decline in student population.
Funding provided by the state is all determined by enrollment, which has led to some schools having less money that can go towards paying off loans and bonds, and therefore deficits.
Out of the 105 schools in danger, around 40 percent are almost guaranteed to close prior to the end of this school year, which would leave hundreds of students without a place to further their education.
GCI has been a major proponent for more aggressive oversight of charter schools to avoid financial problems.
“We’re trying to help them be more pro-active. They have an interest in being pro-active,” said Dave Wells, the study’s co-author. “We’re trying to make more transparency in our recommendations so this kind of problem can be contained and we can improve it in the future.”
The report has uncovered that charter school owners have a history of manipulating rules in order to generate enormous paydays for themselves.
When the legislature convenes on Monday, state lawmakers are expected to discuss the growing issue.
A series of ideas have been proposed by Republican state Senator Kate Brophy McGee that are expected to place tighter controls on charter school finances, an idea that received a tacit endorsement from Governor Doug Ducey.
Public education advocates remain skeptical of the plans.
Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, predicted the effort will lead to “meaningless” reform.