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State's Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team Looking Into Inspire Charter

A state agency is looking into a number of non-classroom based charter schools including Inspire Charter, which has been criticized from those within the charter school movement itself.

Inspire is a network of home school charters operating throughout California, including in San Diego County. NBC 7 Investigates has learned the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) has started a preliminary investigation into some non- classroom based schools, including Inspire.

FCMAT makes sure educational agencies are financially responsible.

As NBC 7 Investigates has reported, critics have raised ethical concerns about Inspire. They say there is a lack of oversight on how public money is spent, and say teachers are not adequately reviewing the work of Inspire’s home school students. Inspire denies those allegations and says it has set up its funds to provide choices for families in how to best educate their children.

Those within the charter school movement welcome FCMAT’s involvement, saying clearing the air will be good for the reputation of the entire charter school movement.

“I think it’s good to be held accountable, and if you have nothing to hide, then the auditors would find nothing,” said Jennifer Cauzza, Executive Director of Julian Charter School Family of Charter Schools. “There are some schools that are out there doing some things we don't think are correct, but we don't know if they are or if they're not, and if it goes through a FCMAT audit and it passes the test, then we know they are.”

In an email to NBC 7 Investigates, Inspire’s Chief Executive Officer, Doctor Nick Nichols said in part:

“No Inspire employee has been contacted by anyone at FCMAT at any time. Inspire schools are not aware of any FCMAT inquiry into any of the schools' practices but everyone has tremendous respect for the high degree of integrity in which FCMAT performs their work. We are available to assist them and to fully answer any questions they wish to ask.”

FCMAT says it is in the preliminary stages, and is defining the scope of its work.

NBC 7 has also confirmed the Dehesa Union School District has hired a firm to audit the five charter school it oversees, two of which are Inspire schools. Acting Superintendent Larry Perondi also said the District will present a new process to oversee charter schools to its board on Sept. 12. That process would include visitations and financial oversight.

“Oversight is not just a word,” Perondi said.

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