Sen. Taylor has introduced SB 88 attempting to address conflicts of interest by charter school organizers. The issue is with these ostensibly public schools directing public money to themselves or their relatives. There is not a lot of transparency or oversight with these operations — we saw that with the Indiana Virtual School charter where little Daleville was theoretically providing oversight. One potential issue is self-dealing by charter schools — where they can do things like lease property from subsidiaries of the charter school operators. Karen Francisco outlined what the shell game can look like in Indiana.
SB 88 would prohibit a charter school organizer from entering into a contract with any person from which an officer or employee (or relative of an officer or employee) will receive compensation. It creates an exemption for contracts valued at under $1,000. This is certainly a start, but I’m not sure it goes far enough. For example, I’m not sure it covers the situation where the self-dealing arrangement goes three or four companies deep — e.g. the organizer rents at higher than market price from a nominally independent third party who then enters into an inflated maintenance contract with the organizer’s son.
Incidentally, this also helps illustrate why the Presidential candidates who try to distinguish between supporting for-profit and not-for-profit charter schools are offering an unhelpful distinction. I’m no happier if public schools receive less money and the public money goes through a non-profit charter school to a for-profit company owned by the charter school operator’s daughter.