Editorial: Department of Education's fairness, impartiality and intent brought into question

News that the state Department of Education did not properly monitor certain accountability measurements of charter schools for the past four years should raise a red flag.

The report by the Legislative Auditor's Office said the education department failed to properly check self-reported figures by the charter schools that factor into the schools' performance grade.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said the education department routinely accepts charter school reports on such factors as droupout, attendance and graduation rates without checking for accuracy. 

Those three measurements, along with students' achievement on standardized tests, factor into the letter grade that charter and public schools are assigned by the education department. Attendance rates comprise 10 percent of elementary school letter grades and graduation rates make up 30 percent of grades for high schools.

''There should be some heightened accountability,'' said Nicole Edmonson, director of performance audit services for the auditor's office.

The education department told Purpera they stopped conducting on-site audits in 2008 because of a lack of resources. That's hard to believe given the department's roster that is so thick with employees making six figures that it would choke a herd of goats.

Department of Education Secretary John White's explanation also borders on disingenuous. He said the auditor's criticism was insignificant because attendance will no longer be used as a measuring stick in future years and dropout rates will only apply

to middle schools.

But what of the past four years?

The audit also found that the department did not give 10 new charter schools baseline measure of previous student performance. Those measures are used to follow student performance. 

Here's the issue: Charter and public schools are competing for students. Not holding one to the same standards that the other adhere to seriously questions the Department's fairness, impartiality and intent. 

Is it too much to ask White and the Department of Education to do its due diligence for all schools in the state?

We don't think so.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.