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Under NCLB, Arizona Told to Return $1 Million

Arizona has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Education to return more than $1 million of federal funds spent on for-profit charter schools.

For-profit charter schools are not eligible for federal money, a November audit by the U.S. Office of the Inspector General said. The federal dollars in question are Title I funds given to schools with a high number of low-income students and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act money for special-education programs.

The federal funds flow through the Arizona Department of Education to all schools, traditional and charter. The funds should go to "public" entities, the audit said.

Arizona's school chief Tom Horne says Arizona's 20 private companies that run about 40 for-profit charter schools follow the same rules as other schools and should get the federal funds. He will appeal the audit's findings.

Horne said for-profit charter schools must educate, like all public schools, poor children and children with special needs. "They are claiming (for-profit) schools are not public bodies," Horne said. "But under Arizona law they are."

Arizona's charter school law does not distinguish between for-profit charter schools and non-profit charter schools. Most of Arizona's nearly 500 charter schools are non-profit and this audit's findings do not affect them.

If Arizona loses its appeal, the state could be ordered to refund as much as $3 million. The $1.1 million price tag considers the time from October 2000 to September 2001. But Horne said federal money has gone to for-profit charter schools in 2002 and 2003. The audit said that should also be refunded.

— Monica Mendoza
State told to return $1 mil to U.S.
Arizona Republic


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