CCSA Reinforces Commitment to Responsible Charter School Management

April 3, 2017

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On Friday, March 31, 2017 CCSA learned federal authorities charged Ben Chavis, former director of three California charter schools collectively known as the American Indian Model Schools (AIMS), with mail fraud and money laundering in connection with the schools' applications for federal grant funds.

While all are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we see this situation to be of great concern. CCSA and our members stand deeply committed to the principle that all California charter schools must follow responsible and legal governance and management practices, and whenever violations are proven to have occurred, those who are responsible must be held appropriately accountable.

In the case of AIMS, despite the fact that the organizations' schools were among the highest performing charter schools in the state, CCSA supported Oakland Unified School District's (OUSD) 2013 decision to revoke the schools' charters amid allegation of mismanagement of public funds and the initial unwillingness of the AIMS board of directors to take necessary corrective actions. Subsequently, AIMS did take responsibility, severing any connection to the prior board and to Ben Chavis, which led to OUSD and CCSA again becoming supportive of AIMS's continued operation.

The situation underscores the need to establish with clarity in statute what the transparency and conflict of interest requirements are for charter schools so that all schools and authorizers may know what laws apply and so that the general public can know with certainty that all public funds are being wisely used in California charter schools. This is why we have sponsored legislation in the past and are sponsoring legislation again this year that would provide the clarity that schools and authorizers need and would help prevent situations like this from recurring.

As we work to pass this legislation, we continue to monitor the broader landscape. We are very encouraged to know that the vast majority of California's 1250 charter schools are already following the conflict of interest and other provisions contained within our legislation and are very responsibly governed and managed. However, should any other situation arise where it is clear that an outlier school is deviating from the responsible practices found throughout the rest of the sector, we will not hesitate to take action helping to ensure that all parties are held appropriately accountable.