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Scott Stringer says he’ll audit charter schools as city comptroller

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said today that he has every intention of auditing city charter schools, even after a judge ruled this week that they are exempt from any such financial regulation.

State charter school law broadly states that charters aren’t subject to many of the rules and regulations that govern traditional education entities. A provision to the law was added in 2009 that permitted the state comptroller to audit charters, but this week’s decision on a lawsuit brought by Success Academy Charter Schools declared that even that clause is unconstitutional when held up against the original law.

But Stringer said he believes city laws give him the leverage to probe a charter’s finances, and he said he’ll be doing exactly that. 

“I think every entity that receives public dollars should be subject to an audit by the comptroller’s office,” Stringer said today at an event in midtown, adding, “and I’m going to audit charter schools.”

The move would be a new development for the city comptroller’s office. Under former Comptroller John Liu, education audits focused on policies and contracts at the Department of Education. Charter schools are publicly-funded but privately-managed organizations whose entities are overseen by one of the state’s three charter authorizers. 

The charter law states that charter schools must hire independent auditors to probe their finances once a year. Sources in the charter sector said that auditing regulation could be tighter as a way to ensure that schools are always keeping clean financing books, but they dismissed  Stringer’s comments. They said that any city comptroller audit, if challenged legally, would be unlikely to hold up to state law.

DiNapoli has audited some charter schools since the 2009 provision granted him the additional authority, but it hadn’t been challenged legally until Success brought a lawsuit against the state comptroller’s office this summer.  The comptroller’s office has said it is considering an appeal.