HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Poor governance and financial conflicts of interest have plagued Pennsylvania’s largest online charter school, which collects tens of millions of dollars from nearly every school district in the state, a state audit found.
The performance audit, released Thursday by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, found the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Midland, Beaver County, failed to provided adequate oversight of business dealings involving Nick Trombetta, the founder and CEO, who is due to be sentenced in November on a federal tax conspiracy charge.
“In the case of PA Cyber Charter School, publicly elected school boards from nearly every school district in the state are sending state and local tax dollars to the cyber school with zero input and accountability,” said DePasquale, who used the audit to call for reforms of the state’s charter school law, which he called the worst in the nation.
Trombetta created a number of entities that provided services to the school, and “took advantage of every flaw in the law to get rich off the backs of students and taxpayers,” DePasquale said.
Trombetta left the school in 2012, and Pennsylvania Cyber disputed many of the findings in its response to the audit. Brian Hayden, PA Cyber’s board president, said the school has worked to change how it operates.
“This isn’t the same organization as it was under Nick Trombetta. It is not,” Hayden told the Beaver County Times. “We’re learning. We’re trying, and we’re really committed to moving away from those bad practices.”
The online school enrolls nearly 10,000 students statewide.
The audit, which covered the period between May 2011 and March 2016, found problems with the curriculum and management company and said the board failed to govern, among other failings.
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