The State Education Department (SED) website has impressive requirements for applying for a charter as well as monitoring the entire process.
The application is detailed and the State Department of Education (SED) in their guidance document sets a high standard.
The Board of Regents will only approve applications that clearly demonstrate a strong capacity for establishing and operating a high quality charter school. This standard requires a strong educational program, organizational plan, and financial plan, as well as clear evidence of the capacity of the founding group to implement the proposal and operate the school effectively.
Once approved the SED retains the right to monitor the performance of charter school,
… the New York State Education Department, is authorized to oversee and monitor each charter school authorized by the Regents in all respects, including the right to visit, examine and inspect the charter school and its records.
Additionally the SED requires specific actions in an opening procedures document, a monitoring plan, a performance framework and a closing procedures checklist
Unfortunately the SED will tell you there is no way they can monitor charter schools in the detail that the regulations allow; they simply do not have the staff. Once a charter school opens there is virtually no supervision for the initial five years.
What is disturbing is that the SED does not adequately vet the applicants, the members of the charter board.
The Regents and NYSED have given charter schools to a con man ("Dr" Ted) with a trustee board with no experience running a school and a guy (Steve Perry) who has threatened physical violence on his detractors.
Clearly there isn't much to the vetting process for charter school approval in New York State.
That SED freely admits they don't have the staff to monitor charter schools once they're opened makes the poor vetting before approval even worse.
There's a reason charter school operators don't want to be subject to auditing by either the state or the city comptroller but would rather be subject to NYSED/Regents accountability.
That's because they know there is no one at NYSED or the Regents who is going to hold them accountable.
After the "Dr" Ted fiasco, the director of the NYSED charter office went into hiding, refusing to publicly comment on the mess.
When the guy at the State Education Department who's supposed to hold charters accountable refuses to be held accountable himself, we've got major problems.
The only solution here is to ensure that a thorough auditing and monitoring of all charters, both single schools and chains, be conducted by the comptrollers at the state and city levels.
We know from a recent analysis of audits conducted by the state comptroller's office or NYSED of charter schools since 2002 that violations and/or financial mismanagement are found 95% of the time.
No wonder the charter operators don't want to be subject to auditing - it's the Wild, Wild West in the charter sector and audits have a way of taming it all.
Eva Moskowitz successfully sued last year to make sure that couldn't happen.
Since then, Governor Cuomo gave charters in NYC free rent courtesy of the NYCDOE but subject them to auditing by the comptrollers.
It is essential that these audits must be conducted.
It's clear that the Board of Regents and NYSED are neither prepared to hold charter schools and their operators accountable before or after the approval process.