Audit: Praise for Minnesota charter schools’ finances but pause on academics

Norman Draper:

A report from the Minnesota legislative auditor’s office says test scores are lower than average and the schools can use more oversight. It urged legislators to tighten the controls.
Minnesota’s charter schools need more oversight and post poorer test scores than their regular district school brethren, but have made big strides toward financial health, according to a report released Monday by the office of the legislative auditor.
The report offered a mixed bag of pluses and minuses for Minnesota’s 143 charter schools, which have higher turnover and much higher populations of minority and low-income students than regular schools. The report’s authors termed oversight of charter school operations and finances “unclear and often quite complicated,” and called for legislation to tighten controls.

Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor:

We evaluated the performance, oversight, and accountability of charter schools. We found that, in general, charter schools do not perform as well as district schools; however, after accounting for relevant demographic factors and student mobility rates, the differences in student performance were minimal. Additionally, we found that charter school oversight responsibilities are not clear, leading to duplication and gaps in oversight. We recommend the Legislature clarify the roles of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and sponsors (organizations that authorize, monitor, and evaluate charter schools) and that MDE implement standards for sponsors. We also recommend that the Legislature strengthen conflict of interest laws for charter school boards.