“Oregon charter school founders accused in $20 million racketeering lawsuit.” By Betsy Hammond. Oregonian. January 4, 2013. Tim King and Norm Donohoe, who ran a chain of taxpayer-funded charter schools across small-town Oregon from their headquarters in Clackamas, scammed the state out of $17 million and must repay that plus $2.7 million more, the state said in a court filing this week. The legal claim, brought Thursday by the Oregon Department of Justice in Marion County Circuit Court, accuses the pair of racketeering, money laundering and other fraud from 2007 to 2010. King and Donohoe, who were the director and president, respectively, of a nonprofit they named EdChoices, submitted false, incomplete and misleading records about how many students were enrolled in the schools and how they were spending the state’s money, state prosecutors say in the complaint. “It’s not true,” Donohoe said when reached after 5 p.m. Friday. He said EdChoices’ attorney would need to speak for him but was not available after hours. King could not be reached for comment. The pair opened and operated at least 10 charter schools that went by various and changing names, including Baker Web Academy, Estacada Early College and Sheridan AllPrep Academy. Most were launched under the name AllPrep. They existed under agreements with the school boards in Estacada, Sisters, Baker City, Sheridan, Burns and Marcola, but enrolled students from across the state in their online programs. The state provided startup grants of up to $450,000 per charter school. The state Department of Educational so paid about $6,000 a year for each student enrolled, relying on the charter school operators to document the number. The state now says those records were “erroneous, false and misleading.” King was the charismatic front man for AllPrep when the schools’ unraveling finances prompted state regulators in the education and justice departments to begin asking questions in spring 2010. He quickly stepped down. Donohoe said Friday that he doesn’t know how to reach him.
“D.C. charter schools expel students at far higher rates than traditional public schools.” By Emma Brown. Washington Post. January 5, 2013. The District’s public charter schools have expelled students at a far higher rate than the city’s traditional public schools in recent years, according to school data, highlighting a key difference between two sectors that compete for the District’s students and taxpayer dollars. D.C. charter schools expelled 676 students in the past three years, while the city’s traditional public schools expelled 24, according to a Washington Post review of school data. During the 2011-12 school year, when charters enrolled 41 percent of the city’s students, they removed 227 children for discipline violations and had an expulsion rate of 72 per 10,000 students; the District school system removed three and had an expulsion rate of less than 1 per 10,000 students. The discrepancy underscores the freedom that charters — publicly funded schools that operate independently of the traditional school system — have from school system policies. That autonomy defines the charter movement and gives its schools considerable latitude to decide what student behavior they will — and won’t — tolerate.
“Pressure to Rein In Tuition Squeezes Colleges.” By Michael Corkery. Wall Street Journal/Associated Press. December 30, 2012. Private colleges are facing pressure to slow tuition hikes and boost aid, as families question the cost. College officials say the long-held faith among many Americans that college is worth whatever it costs is starting to waver under the weight of lackluster job prospects, stagnant wages and a pileup of student debt. The shift is already threatening to put stress on some schools’ finances. Average tuition this past year rose by the smallest percentage in at least 40 years among the 960 private schools that belong to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which collectively enroll 90% of the students in private colleges. It climbed 3.9% to $29,305. Twenty-four of the group’s colleges froze tuition during the 2012-13 academic year, more than double the previous year’s total. Eight colleges shrank tuition costs, up from six in the 2011-12 academic year and none in the previous academic year. Colleges freezing tuition this year include Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., while Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., cut tuition for high-achieving applicants. “They are treating us like they are buying a pair of shoes,” says Donald Farish, president of Roger Williams University, a 3,785-student college in Bristol, R.I. More students are attracted to the college “that gets me the best value,” he says. Roger Williams said in October that it will freeze tuition for the 2013-14 academic year at the current $29,976 and vowed not to increase tuition for its next freshman class for four years. Mr. Farish says that the school froze tuition because “costs are increasing faster than people’s incomes and we need to keep it affordable.”
“Harvard Braces for Decline in Federal Funding; Harvard Braces for Decline in Federal Funding.” By Nicholas P. Fandos and Samuel Y. Weinstock. Harvard Crimson. December 30, 2012. As Washington lawmakers scramble to reach a last-minute budget deal before the end of the year, Harvard and other research universities are bracing for what would be the most dramatic cut in federal research funding in recent history. Failure to come up with a compromise to avert the so-called fiscal cliff by midnight Monday will trigger an 8.2 percent across-the-board cut in non-defense discretionary spending. As a result, Harvard will lose out on millions of dollars in promised federal grant money for the 2013 fiscal year. Because the cuts will be applied to the current fiscal year, which began July 1, the loss in sponsorship will be compounded onto the second half of the fiscal year, worsening the blow for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal calendar. The University received roughly $656 million in federal sponsorship during the 2012 fiscal year. Though the University has yet to release information for the 2013 fiscal year, sponsorship figures were not expected to change drastically from current levels. Federal sponsorship comprised about 16 percent of the University’s overall operating budget for the fiscal year 2012, according to the Office for Sponsored Programs 2012 annual report. The schools most at risk from federal cuts are Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, both of which rely heavily on the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation for funding. The Medical School alone took in over $250 million in federal funds during the 2012 fiscal year, a sum that accounted for 34 percent of its operating budget. Though the School of Public Health brought in a slightly smaller total of nearly $193 million, that amount was 55 percent of the school’s overall budget. Of all University schools receiving significant federal support, The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is the most diversified, relying heavily on private sponsorship in addition to federal support. FAS received just over $135 million in federal monies for the fiscal year 2012—about 12 percent of its overall budget.