The following letter to the editor by NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi appeared in the Albany Times Union Wednesday, February 13, 2008.
Charter school opposition to audits raises concerns about their agenda
Charter school management is trying to have it both ways at taxpayers' expense. Charter operators "talk the talk" on accountability, but they don't walk the walk. Right now, in fact, they are running furiously in the opposite direction.
The New York State Charter School Association Inc. is suing in state Supreme Court to stop the state comptroller from auditing charter schools. Charter management's claim that it is being picked on is laughable. The comptroller routinely audits public schools and has looked at everything from school safety reporting to compliance with No Child Left Behind to the ways schools are working to improve academic performance.
Incredibly, Charter Association President Bill Phillips, in an op-ed to "set the record straight" ("Charter schools targeted," Jan. 24), asserts: "We do not oppose Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's ongoing audits of every charter school's financial practices and controls." In fact, Phillip's own lawsuit asks the court to permanently prohibit the comptroller from "conducting or attempting to conduct audits of any charter school."
That's charter management's real agenda: to limit the scope of audits so as to render them meaningless. The charter association, a political arm that swears by the concept of "accountability," is seeking to evade the most basic accountability for public funds, which make up fully 90 percent of the revenue received by the charters participating in the lawsuit.
New York State United Teachers, with more than a half-million members statewide, represents teachers in public and charter schools. Teachers live and breathe accountability every day, and the union has never opposed charter schools designed as incubators for innovative, replicable strategies that improve student learning.
But for any hope of that happening, we need sunshine: on spending, on how students are selected and tested, and on how schools perform. Decisions on education policy and spending need to be based on a broad scope of essential information, verified for accuracy, and comparisons need to be made on a level playing field.
Which raises two intriguing questions: Why is charter management trying to change the rules of the game? What does "corporate charter" have to hide?
RICHARD C. IANNUZZI, President
New York State United Teachers