Audit: Charter school payment-appeals process seriously flawed

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – An audit of the charter school payment appeals process shows staggering gaps in how districts are able to confront or argue invoices from charter schools.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s report also finds the system may favor charter schools over school districts.

Under state law, school districts are required to pay charter schools a per-student fee based on a formula specific to the district. If a charter does not receive the money, they can send an invoice to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which then pulls the money from the district’s funding and pays it directly into the charter.

The problem, DePasquale claims in his audit, is that there is no clear, concise or timely way for a district to appeal the invoice.

“All the charter has to do is claim to the Pennsylvania Department of Education that it’s owed the money and they get it,” he said.

In addition, DePasquale said if a school does navigate the appeals process, they are sent conflicting letters from the department.

“The exact same department at practically the exact same time sent directly contradictory letters and the department didn’t even know they were doing it until we did the audit,” he said.

“People sometimes get frustrated with the government. This is an example of why people get frustrated,” he added.

DePasquale says the Education Department is cooperating and agrees with his recommendations.

In total, the audit found there were 857 charter school payment appeals filed in a 5-year period. The audit found 82 percent of the appeals were unresolved at the end of last year.

The York City School District was highlighted as a case where the public district had no chance to properly appeal invoices from New Hope Charter School. Invoices totaling $3.6 million were paid to New Hope which has since closed, rendering that money lost.

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