Los Angeles based charter school organization, Inspire Charter Schools, which has an enrollment of over 35,000 in 13 schools and countless more home school situations, has been facing more and more allegations in recent months.
Dr. Nick Nichols, the founder and CEO of Inspire, resigned earlier today after nearly a month of being placed on leave. While no reason was given, it is widely believed to come from the fallout of the financial mismanagement of the company.
According to NBC 7, this included using money to send kids to theme parks for field trips, giving from $100 to $200 to teachers for each student they got to go there, and other highly questionable decisions. Another investigation by the San Diego Tribune found that they manipulated enrollment, only gave a partial lesson plan, misreported attendance, had schools be placed in buildings where they weren’t clear to operate from, had the majority of their students come in from a completely different district, and made a profit despite being a non-profit organization.
Inspire’s model of having many of its students be homeschooled has also received criticism, as its loose standards on curriculum could possibly lead to lower standards.
While schools are found state-wide, the county with the most students and schools is San Diego. Several pro-charter school lawmakers represent the area, foremost among them being Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee).
Despite being in the midst of a growing scandal, Senator Jones has supported the program without comment on Inspire. During debate in the Senate over the charter school limiting bill AB 1505 earlier this year, Senator Jones called the bill “another attack of the many this year on charter schools.”
Despite state lawmakers and local school boards either not doing or not being able to do anything, other organizations have cracked down. Eleven executives of A3 Education, a charter school company with similar allegations involving over $50 million dollars, were indicted in May over misappropriation of money and now face jail time. The indictment effectively put Inspire and other charter schools with allegations on notice. Then the California Charter Schools Association took away Inspire’s membership last month and instituted an audit. School superintendents in California have also begun audits of their own.
Now, with the resignation of their CEO, Inspire may find itself either stripped down, out of business, or absorbed into another charter school group.
As charter schools are increasingly coming under fire in California, especially after the latest session adding numerous new laws restricting them in many ways, including where they can be physically located, Inspire’s dire straits, as well as A3’s downfall, may just be a glimpse of things yet to come statewide for the public school alternative.