Morning Report: Inside the Astonishing Alleged Charter Scam
If you’ve been following the $80 million alleged charter school scam recently exposed by the San Diego district attorney’s office, we’ve got the story for you.
VOSD’s Will Huntsberry describes the characters and inner workings of an organization that raked in millions of taxpayer dollars by functioning like an organized crime ring, according to testimony from 72 people in front of a grand jury.
Sean McManus and Jason Schrock created an empire of 19 online charter schools that enrolled tens of thousands of students. Some did real coursework and corresponded with real teachers. Others did no coursework at all, prosecutors say. Whether a student was real or fake, each one brought in thousands of dollars.
The 2016 tax returns for A3 Education, a nonprofit charter school management company founded by McManus and Schrock, show the organization brought in $14 million dollars but only spent $3.6 million.
The enterprise included accountants, board members, and lieutenants who served different functions and opened different schools; superintendents, who, perhaps unwittingly, helped expand the network’s footprint; and on-the-ground enrollment workers who roped students, coaches and parents – some highly suspicious – into the scheme.
Huntsberry’s story chronicles the tale of attendance workers delivering suitcases full of millions of dollars’ worth of student paperwork and employees who literally dreamed of champagne and extravagant bonuses, while also explaining several legal loopholes used to exploit attendance funding.
Read These New Books From San Diego Authors
VOSD contributor Julia Dixon Evans is an amazing writer and novelist in her own right, so you should listen when she says there are three new books from San Diego authors that are worth checking out.
In this week’s Culture Report, Evans has details on what makes “What a Body Remembers,” by Karen Stefano, “All of Me” by Chris Baron and “Our Debatable Bodies” by Marisa Crane so special.
Another Shelter Is Coming
The city will soon have a new shelter. That will be in addition to the refuge for homeless women and families that will remain at City Hall for at least a year.
The details: TBD.
The City Council voted Tuesday to approve a year-long $11.6 million contract extension with three homeless-serving nonprofits now operating the city’s three bridge shelter tents.
The City Council voted to keep homeless women and families now staying in the City Hall complex at Golden Hall rather than move the shelter operated by Father Joe’s Villages to 17th Street and Imperial Avenue. (The city previously moved the shelter from Father Joe’s East Village campus this spring to make way for a housing project.)
But the Council also decided that the East Village plot should still house a shelter tent.
The shift came after City Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, who represents the Barrio Logan area, argued that the planned tent site on the edge of her district and downtown is too close to the Interstate 5 freeway and not a safe place for young families.
To accommodate that change, the City Council voted to shift $1.6 million in state grant funds that had been set to support homeless outreach instead to the 17th and Imperial site to pay for tent operations.
Now city officials will have to decide how to pay for the fourth shelter, which is expected to cost hundreds of thousands more than the City Council allocated on Tuesday.
“We’ll work in collaboration with the Council and Housing Commission to lay the groundwork for a fourth shelter to help even more San Diegans struggling on our streets,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted after the vote.
In Other News
- SDSU left $20 million in scholarships on the table instead of doling it out to needy students. (Union-Tribune)
- A report from the Citizens Advisory Board on Police and Community Relations urges San Diego Police to look beyond former military members for recruitment. (KPBS)
- The Washington Post Magazine calls the Mattson 2, made up of identical twins from San Diego, “the most original band that no one was talking about.”
- On Twitter, Carl DeMaio challenged Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to a debate. But he has her blocked on Twitter. Meaning she can’t see his tweets. (Gonzalez had asked KUSI why he was on the air so much after news emerged that a ballot measure he championed had failed to qualify.)
- Developers reached an agreement with historic preservationists to move forward with the re-development of the California Theatre, a historic but vacant property near City Hall. The deal calls for the developers to preserve more of the theater’s structure while building what will become downtown’s largest condo tower, at 444 units. Developers hope to finish by 2022. (Union-Tribune)
Correction: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized how officials plan to shift $1.6 million in state grant funds. The reallocated money will support operations at the 7th Street and Imperial Avenue shelter tent.
The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, Will Huntsberry and Lisa Halverstadt.