INDIANAPOLIS – The State Board of Accounts (SBOA) uncovered new information in the special investigation into two virtual schools: Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. The virtual schools were discovered to be fraudulently inflating their enrollment numbers, resulting in the state spending $68 million in excess funds to the schools and $85 million to affiliated companies. State Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) had the following response to the SOBA’s recent report:
“The fact that these virtual schools were given the leeway to effectively steal a combined $68 million from the state and then turn around and funnel $85 million in payments to companies owned by associates and relatives of the virtual school operators, with little to no documentation on what this money was spent on, highlights a very real issue that can no longer be ignored in Indiana,” Sen. Stoops said. “Because of a lack of oversight and accountability by the Holcolmb administration, the Charter School Board and the State Board of Education, which are appointed by the Governor, the state has shelled out millions of taxpayers’ dollars to these schools, and it is doubtful we will get any of it back. As terrible as it is that these virtual schools defrauded the state, it is equally as terrible that the Indiana General Assembly failed to take the appropriate measures to prevent something like this from being possible.
“Over the past four years, Democratic Senators and I have introduced legislation that would have required more oversight for Indiana’s charter schools and established an accountability system that would have protected us from situations like the one we’re in now. This year, I authored Senate Bill 431 to put these necessary protections in place. Unfortunately, my proposal, like similar ones that I’ve introduced in the past, was never allowed to be heard by the Republicans that control the Indiana legislature.
“I believe the SBOA’s report has uncovered just the tip of the iceberg. Charter and private school special interests use campaign donations to leverage huge profits at the expense of our kids’ education. I am sure the for-profit companies behind Indiana Virtual Schools were very happy to leverage their over $100,000 in campaign donations into $150 million in state funding. Compare that to the difficulty we have had in getting just $75 million in funding for increased teacher pay for Indiana’s public school teachers–teachers who have the slowest salary growth in the nation.
“It is time to bring transparency and accountability to our funding of private speculative ventures that are funneling so much money away from our public schools. In the short time left in this legislative session, we must pass meaningful reform that protects Indiana from further fraud.”