Fed, state probes target largest charter schools

The founder of Pennsylvania's largest cyber charter school was arrested by federal authorities for allegedly funneling millions through front companies into his personal bank account. 

The largest bricks-and-mortar charter school in the state received a stinging report from the state Auditor General for receiving more than $1 million in improper lease payments from the state.

And that was just in the last 48 hours.

Those revelations - about Nick Trombetta, founder of Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, who turned himself in to the FBI on Thursday and Chester Community Charter School, the subject of an audit released Wednesday that found $1.2 million in questionable lease reimbursements and 11 areas where the school was not complying with state law - reminded us of the battle last year over so-called charter school reform legislation.

In its final draft the bill included a controversial provision that would have excluded charter school management and vendors from the Right-to-Know law.

It did not pass the legislature. Neither did an earlier plan by Gov. Corbett - who as attorney general launched a probe of Trombetta in 2007 - to create a separate entity to approve charter schools that would have removed the decision making from local school districts while leaving taxpayers with the bill.

That proposal counted Trombetta among its supporters. He told The Morning Call of Allentown it would make the approval process "less adversarial."

In the end, it too failed.

Even without the "non-accountability" law many charter schools apparently think they are exempt from the Right- to-Know law.

Terry  Mutchler, executive director of the Office of Open Records, recently fingered charter schools as the worst offenders of the state Right-to-Know law. 

"They don't feel they should be subject to this law," Mutchler told lawmakers during a Senate committee hearing in May. "Or, candidly, subject to you."









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