HARRISBURG – After seven audits this year revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) approved nearly $2 million in improper lease reimbursements to charter schools, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has called on the department to correct the problem. He offered assistance to establish procedures that could help ensure education funding is focused on classroom education.
“While our auditors notified PDE of improper lease reimbursements at seven charter schools in the past nine months, we do not know what, if any, action was taken by PDE to remedy this situation,” DePasquale wrote in the letter to Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq. “To my knowledge, no corrective action by PDE on a charter school lease issue related to property ownership has been taken since the Franklin Towne Charter School in Philadelphia was required to repay $225,000 in 2009-10.”
Since December of 2012, audits by the Department of the Auditor General found that PDE approved and paid $1.8 million in lease reimbursements to these seven charter schools despite questions about whether those reimbursements are allowed under Section 2574.3 of the Public School Code and PDE’s guidelines:
- · Bucks County — School Lane Charter School, $60,248;
- · Delaware County — Chester Community Charter School, $1, 276,660;
- · Lackawanna County — Fell Charter School, $94,266;
- · Lehigh County — Roberto Clemente Charter School, $191,267;
- · Luzerne County — Bear Creek Community Charter School, $106,332;
- · Mercer County — Keystone Education Center Charter School, $85,375; and
- · Monroe County — Evergreen Community Charter School, $20,360.
“It is crucial that PDE implement an effective review process for lease reimbursements to ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent in the classroom,” he said. “If you believe my auditors are misinterpreting PDE regulations on this matter, please let me know. If that is the case, we will advocate to the legislature for a policy change.”
All school audits are available online at: www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.