BATON ROUGE, La. — A state audit released Monday criticizes how Louisiana’s education department monitors charter schools, and calls on the agency to tighten its reviews to better track the performance of schools that educate tens of thousands of public school students.
The report from Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office found the education department weighed critical and noncritical violations equally in determining school performance ratings. The department, auditors say, should be judging charter schools based on the severity of a violation.
In the education department’s written response, Superintendent of Education John White said the agency is working to update the scoring system to more adequately account for differences in offense types.
The Advocate reports the audit also found the agency failed to ensure charter schools enrolled the required number of at-risk students — students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, who have disabilities or who are the mother or father of a child.
For two types of charters, 19 percent of schools failed to have the necessary number of at-risk students for the 2015-16 year, Purpera’s office found.
The education department disagreed with the report’s claim, saying the law doesn’t require giving a preference to at-risk students. The department said it monitors the enrollment lotteries of schools deemed out of compliance with the law involving at-risk students.
In other areas, auditors said the department didn’t specify how to address violations in charter schools and should better inform parents of how to make complaints. The report said education officials should conduct unannounced check-ups on the schools, in addition to the annual announced review visits.
White said the state makes such unannounced reviews, but believes they have limited value.
“Most of the major problems uncovered at schools have actually been revealed during announced visits, routine monitoring activities and off-site data reviews,” White wrote.
Louisiana has 145 charter schools, public schools run by nongovernmental boards, attended by 80,000 students. About 53,000 students attend charter schools covered in Purpera’s review.