Several years ago, bearsolutions was involved in conversations to expand the financial oversight of charter schools in a city. There was resistance from some charter school leaders who were wary of increased regulation.
As a nonprofit organization, public charter schools are a public trust by virtue of their tax exempt status. Nonprofit organizations dependent on public support realize that accountability and transparency are essential to earn the respect of the public and maintain their good will.
We use the term Collaborative Governance to describe the fact that there are many interested parties that have some control or authority over the future of a nonprofit organization. Authorizers are delegated with the responsibility of ensuring that the schools they authorize are financially stable. Donors and lenders require the organization to demonstrate financial solvency. A PCS Board is expected to make certain there are adequate resources to serve the organizational mission and that those resources are managed effectively. Parents want to know that their kids’ school will be there for them in the future. Vendors and community partners will only continue to work with a PCS if it demonstrates reliability.
An effective Public Charter School needs the support of all these community members and endeavors to achieve the permanence that comes with “community ownership” of the school. Individual Public Charter Schools should embrace Financial Oversight as the self-serving means to address the community’s expectations for accountability and transparency. Financial Oversight is Collaborative Governance at its finest. The consequence of irresponsibility for a Public Charter School may be a loss of its charter.
And there is another reason that PCS should embrace Financial Oversight. One bad apple that squanders public funding can taint public perception of the entire charter school community. Each charter school has a real self-interest to demand that other charter schools demonstrate effective management and accountability. They need to be active participants in the Collaborative Governance of other charter schools. And of course, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.