Thursday, March 14, 2019

Arizona needs true charter financial accountability reform

Senate Bill 1394 falls short of that mark

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIXSenator David Bradley released the following statement on the passage of Senate Bill 1394:

Sen. Bradley
"For years, Democratic legislators have introduced bills to provide financial transparency and accountability of Arizona's charter schools. We support charter schools and send our own children and grandchildren to them. But we have known for quite a while that there are charter operators who take advantage of the system to enrich themselves with taxpayer dollars meant for educating kids.

"Senate Bill 1394 began its journey with its sponsor expressing a willingness to proactively engage both the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses in the discussion. We signed on with the promise that we would be at the table to discuss measures that would strengthen the bill, which we were.

"At the first and every subsequent meeting on this issue we discussed the need to strengthen the reporting and transparency requirements for charter holders and the need to increase transparency around Charter Management Organization contracts. Also discussed, but not resolved, was the capping of administrative expenses and a prospective ban on for-profit charters.

"There were many other ideas discussed in meetings with the sponsor and stake holders but these two main issues represent the minimum focus our caucus needed to vote for the bill. We made this very clear during discussions and that is why they were addressed in our two amendments that were rejected yesterday by Republicans. The notion that our amendments were last minute demands is disingenuous and categorically false.

"With the rejection of our amendments, SB 1394 in its current form fails to resolve these issues.

"While there are provisions within SB 1394 that have merit, such as the Attorney General's ability to issue civil subpoenas, they fail to ultimately target CMOs - the entities that make the operational decisions that can enrich self-dealing charter owners.

"If SB 1394 is enacted, its proponents will claim we have 'checked the box' on charter financial accountability and transparency reform when in actuality we have not. When the regulated have veto power over their own regulation, we will never achieve true reform."

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