By Diane Ravitch, from her blog | http://is.gd/Ar1v9e
July 6, 2014 :: For a few years, the American Indian Model Charter Schools in Oakland, California, were the most celebrated charter schools in the nation, beloved especially by the conservative and rightwing media, not only for their high test scores but for their founder’s scathing comments about liberals, unions, and “multiculturalists.” Despite the name of the charter, it enrolled few American Indians; most of its students are Asian-Americans. Its discipline was harsh. The school boasted of its “back to basics squared” conservative philosophy.
The adulation slowed when an audit revealed that the founder had diverted $3.8 million in public funds to his other business activities. The district and county officials wanted to close them because of financial mismanagement and possible fraud, but a three judge panel ruled that their high test scores were reason to keep them open.
“The Oakland school district can appeal to the state Supreme Court, but if the injunction stands, the schools would stay open while the legal case plays out.
“Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline, in the unanimous ruling by the First District’s three-member panel, agreed with the lower court ruling, saying in the decision that district officials did not adequately consider the schools’ academic performance in the revocation decision.”
“In the meantime, a Superior Court judge is expected to rule on the actual merits of the case, determining whether the decision to close the schools was valid. The two sides presented their arguments on May 20 and a ruling is expected any day, said district spokeswoman Sue Piper.
“The three schools, which had about 850 students in grades K-12 in the 2013-14 school year, have been among the highest-scoring schools in the state.
“While the schools were initially created to serve American Indian students, enrollment is about 70 percent Asian, 12 percent English learner and 75 percent low-income, according to state data.
“While the charters have been lauded academically, a 2012 audit of the charter organization found financial impropriety, including $3.8 million in payments to the school’s former director, Ben Chavis, and his wife through real estate deals, consulting agreements and other services, raising ethical and conflict-of-interest concerns. An April 2013 report by the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team confirmed those findings a month after the Oakland school board voted to shut the schools down.”
Chavis stepped down as director of the schools but he is doing well financially as he collects rent from them. He owns the properties.
Meanwhile, “the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service raided the schools and Chavis’ Oakland home, seizing several boxes of documents, phones and computers. FBI officials did not respond to inquiries regarding the scope or nature of any ongoing investigation.”
The saga continues.