Saturday, October 13, 2012

“The public be damned” SB1115 Charter Reform Bill would gut public's right-to-know provision

“The public be damned”

SB1115, the charter school reform bill scheduled to be considered by the PA Senate Rules Committee on Monday October 15th includes a provision that would exempt companies (“vendors”) doing business with charter schools (“local education agencies”) from Pennsylvania’s right-to-know laws.

No vendor who performs a governmental function and receives public taxpayer dollars should be exempted from PA’s Right-to-Know law.  Ask your state legislators why this provision is in this bill and urge them to vote NO on SB1115.

What possible reasons could there be for including such a provision in the charter school reform bill?  Why would anyone lobby for that exemption?

Here’s 384,000 possible reasons:
Governor Corbett received $384,000 in campaign contributions from Vahan Gureghian, whose Charter School Management Company (“vendor”) runs the state’s largest brick and mortar charter school.

According to an August 2011 Philadelphia Magazine article:
“….Gureghian wanted to make sure the bill (SB 904) would exempt charter-school management organizations like CSMI from state sunshine laws. According to Republican State Representative Mike Vereb, who considers himself a friend of Gureghian, "The language that Vahan was looking to do had to do with vendors of a school … contractors." The effect of such language would be to hide details of the financial operations of charter schools from public scrutiny.

Mr. Gureghian has not complied with a 2012 PA Commonwealth Court right-to-know decision affirming that those financial records are, in fact, public information.

Here’s 28.9 million possible reasons:
While the Chester Community Charter School serves some of the highest poverty level populations of students in the state, Mr. Gureghian reportedly spent $28.9 million in 2011 for two beachfront lots in Palm Beach Florida

Here’s 1,320,653 possible reasons:
Mr. Gureghian reported over $1.3 million in PA political campaign contributions from 2007 through May of 2011, including generous contributions to Senate leadership.

Here’s 5 million possible reasons:
K12, Inc. is a “vendor” doing business with Agora Cyber Charter.  It’s CEO Ron Packard received $5 million in compensation last year.  Agora has never made AYP.  Prior to his appointment as PA Budget Secretary, Charles Zogby was a highly paid executive for K12.

Here’s 10 million possible reasons:
When Nick Trombetta was CEO at PA Cyber, the state’s largest cyber charter school, he used $10 million from the schools excess fund balance to finance construction of a performing arts center.  Mr. Trombetta and his related companies (“vendors”) are now under investigation by the IRS and FBI.

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