Arizona charter schools (attendance tracking problems)

AZ’S CHARTER SCHOOLS OVERSTATE ENROLLMENT; September 4, 2007; The Arizona Republic 
Steve Chavez tried for four years to get an accurate count of the 250 or so students attending his five small charter schools in northern Arizona.

He can’t say exactly why it was difficult. Perhaps clerical problems, he said, or having the kids spread across too many campuses. Chavez said Renaissance Educational Consortium never established a uniform policy to track students.

“We just didn’t have the most watchful eyes, the due diligence,” Chavez said.

Because charters get state funds based on their enrollment, that failing cost taxpayers until state auditors caught up.

In the 2005-06 school year, nearly half of Renaissance’s reported students weren’t enrolled, had dropped out or were chronically absent, state investigators found.

Renaissance collected an extra $102,000 in state money from June to October 2005, which the state eventually took back, plus a 10 percent penalty on its monthly payments. The state continued reducing its monthly payments as it found further problems with the company’s student counts the rest of the year.

Attendance counts are a common way for Arizona’s charter schools to milk state finances.

In 2004, state auditors found attendance-tracking problems at more than half of the state’s 345 charter-school firms. A review of recent charter audits shows many schools still have problems counting students…

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