Crosby believes that Comptroller audits are good for transparency and accountability and opposes the lawsuit by charter school plaintiffs to stop the audits on state constitutional grounds. Williams discusses those arguments, along with the rigorous oversight demanded of charter schools by the charter authorizers, SUNY, the Board of Regents and the New York City Department of Education.
In addition to Williams' published response, The Chalkboard responded below.
An additional point that can be made to Comptroller audits is that they primarily review the past, after the horse has left the barn and the problems have already been found and often times corrected. When few if any problems are "discovered" by the Comptroller's office, auditors will instead recommend that internal controls, or some financial process be "strengthened" or that greater documentation of something occur. It is the nature of these kind of audits to find things wrong and exaggerate now and then, or make subjective judgments -- regardless of who the State Comptroller is.
As a means to correct problems, a charter school or any public entity should not rely on a Comptroller audit, which could only occur over many years, as such audits are actually rare. The Buffalo Public School District, for example, has not had a district-wide audit for years, if ever. The last time the Comptroller's office conducted a district audit was a few years ago of the District's $1 billion joint school construction fund.
The Comptroller's Office may well find plenty of legitimate problems with the Buffalo Public Schools, even though Mr. Crosby has been CFO for five years. If they don't, that would be a credit to Mr. Crosby's stewardship. If the Comptroller wants to paint an unfair picture, Mr. Crosby would be justified to respond vigorously to any such portrait.
To echo one of Joe Williams' points in the Buffalo News today, charter schools have substantial oversight from the charter authorizers, including financial oversight. If anything, this oversight has increased over time, but has been there from the beginning.
One example of this oversight was when I served at the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York, which administers SUNY's charter school responsibilities. The very first year charter schools opened, in 1999-2000, the Institute discovered during its financial oversight that the New Covenant Charter School in Albany had misappropriated school funds to cover a cash flow problem at another community organization headed by the school's board chairman.
The Institute took vigorous and immediate action, including putting the school on probation, and removing the chairman and all but one of the trustees from the school's board (for its shoddy oversight of the chairman), and getting the money restored, among other steps. Had the Institute waited years later for the Comptroller to discover this, if ever, the damage would have been done, and the money long lost.
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.