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Charter school audit bill moves in state Senate after stalling in House

Delaware Public Media

A bill requiring the state auditor to perform charter school audits is moving in the state Senate. It cleared the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

State Sen. Jack Walsh’s (D-Stanton) bill would force State Auditor Kathy McGuiness (D) to perform such audits without charge if the governor, Delaware Attorney General, department heads or the General Assembly requests one. McGuiness opposes the legislation.

The measure comes after Odyssey Charter School was placed on formal review for complaints of misusing state funds and conflicts of interest involving the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.

A similar bill sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams (D-Newport) stalled in a House committee. Williams has pushed on behalf of the Department of Education for McGuiness to do the audit since January.

DOE’s Chuck Longfellow chairs the Charter School Accountability Committee handling Odyssey’s formal review. He said the committee must make recommendations on the school’s future soon.

“Our final meeting is Monday," he said. "And so we have the challenge of determining potential courses of action without the benefit of a professionally-performed audit.”

McGuiness said she thinks legislation is unnecessary.

“We don’t think this bill has to happen now because it seems like the driver is one particular Odyssey, the charter school, and that’s going to be addressed on July 15th," she said. "It’s scheduled for an audit.”

But Williams points out Odyssey’s upcoming audit is being paid for by the school and previous audits failed to find possible misuse of funds.

Kendall Massett, a registered lobbyist who heads the Delaware Charter Schools Network, also opposes the legislation. She said audits are not supposed to find every single issue. She is also a non-voting member of the DOE Charter School Accountability committee conducting Odyssey’s formal review.

It’s unclear whether the House would take up the legislation if it clears the Senate. House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) is friends with McGuiness. But he said their friendship doesn’t enter into his decision-making on legislation.

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