Tuesday, October 13, 2020

1889 Institute: Auditor Byrd abuses office, demonstrates she doesn't understand charter schools

Cindy Byrd Abuses Office Demonstrating She Doesn’t Understand Charter Schools
By Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.

Epic Charter Schools, with 60,000 students, has gotten too big and successful for the public school establishment to ignore. Unfortunately, State Auditor Cindy Byrd has joined in a witch hunt by ignoring the philosophy behind charter school laws and the purpose of state audits, issuing a hit piece masquerading as a special audit. Her excuses for not following standard audit protocols remind one of Dean Wormer’s double-secret probation in the movie, “Animal House.”

There are three basic ideas behind charter school laws. First, public schools are more costly and less productive than they could be because they are monopolies. Second, parents facing relatively easy educational choices would choose to the benefit of their children. And third, charter schools must compete for students. This competition regulates charters far better than any government agency could, and because they compete, charter schools need less regulation that public schools.

Unfortunately, policymakers constantly try to shoehorn charter schools into the public education system, Cindy Byrd being a prime example. Charter schools are private contractors with whom the state has uniquely contracted to provide education. It’s unique that parents, not bureaucrats, independently determine the school attended. The nature of education makes the deliverables ill-defined, which means payments to charter schools, as well as to traditional public schools, are only contingent on enrollment. But, with charter schools, parents can instantly move their children other schools as they wish.

Auditing charter schools’ finances is like auditing a highway contractor how it spends money within its enterprise. This is not done (except for income tax purposes – not at issue with Epic). When the state contracts with a highway contractor, it is unconcerned with how much the contractor pays employees, the brand of equipment purchased, or profits netted.

So if State Auditor Cindy Byrd isn’t auditing highway contractors and textbook providers, why is she auditing Epic Charter Schools? She either doesn’t understand charter school policy or, she’s doing the establishment’s dirty work.

An absurd suggestion in Byrd’s report on Epic Charter Schools is to consider prohibiting any for-profit organization from obtaining a charter and prohibiting charter schools from contracting with for-profit entities for management. If profit in public education were eliminated, consider all the for-profit enterprises public schools would have to fire: architects, building contractors, equipment contractors, computer companies, software companies, textbook companies, bus companies, food companies, sports equipment companies, consultants, and many others. None of these have been audited by Cindy Byrd.

There might be any number of bases to criticize how Epic Charter Schools are run and managed. But Epic not behaving like a traditional public school is not one of them. Cindy Byrd should stick with auditing government entities who get their money from coercive taxation without having to compete for it. Her office was not created so she could make non-technical policy recommendations to the legislature. In so doing, she has abused her position.

0 comments: