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State comptroller defends right to audit charters

Here’s what state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wrote to the New York Daily News after the newspaper said in an editorial that he was unfairly targeting charter schools for audits:

It defies logic that the Daily News would argue for less oversight of charter school finances (“Schoolyard bully,” editorial, July 17). They rely on public funds to operate and should be held accountable to taxpayers by undergoing audits of their financial operations by the state controller. We’ve seen what happens when no one watches the cash register. Charter schools are audited individually because they generally run a single school. To suggest individual schools are being targeted is just plain wrong. The Race to the Top law that granted the controller’s power to audit charter schools also created 260 more such schools. It is certainly not asking too much for them to open their fiscal books. Kids attending charter schools, their parents and taxpayers have a right to an education system subject to fiscal accountability.

DiNapoli’s letter appears in today’s paper. The Courthouse News Network ran a thorough story about the charter school audit issue last week after the Success Academy network sued DiNapoli, saying that he did not have the authority to scrutinize their records.

There is in fact a legal question about who has the statutory right to audit charter schools, and Success Academy’s lawsuit aims to settle the question once and for all. But advocates of the publicly financed but privately managed schools are not arguing that the schools should be free from fiscal oversight altogether.

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