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Pa. Auditor General Calls For Changes In Charter Schools

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The abuse of public money is spotlighted in the indictment of former Pa. Cyber Charter School head Nick Trombetta.

He's accused of siphoning off at least $8 million in public money for personal expenses, a condo in Florida and even an airplane.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the problem is not limited to him.

"It's not everyone, it's not every school, but we some people basically syphoning money off that's supposed to go to the classroom, and we found… now has even bought a jet plane for one of their owners," said DePasquale. "That money is supposed to be used to help our kids get better opportunities for the future; instead, it's lining pockets of some individuals."

DePasquale wants the governor and the legislature to get off the dime and look at funding and other reforms regarding charter schools, especially cyber charter schools like Pa. Cyber, which educates kids online.

Districts whose kids opt out of traditional school must pay the tuition, as much as $10,000 to $12,000 a year and DePasquale says those school as getting shortchanged.

"It was supposed to be lower cost because you're not having to pay the electric bill, etc.," he says. "But then the cost ends up being higher per student than some actual traditional public schools, and that make no sense."

Gov. Tom Corbett agrees.

"Because there is some legitimacy to the arguments that they don't need the same amount as maybe a brick and mortar school needs. So, we need to look for some equity there," said Gov. Corbett.

But since KDKA spoke with Gov. Corbett last spring, nothing has been done. That's why DePasquale says he'll be taking action.

"We are going to hold hearings throughout the state, and we're going to do that with the idea of trying to get the legislature and the governor to pass a new charter law, so that we can have more transparency and more accountability to make sure that more dollars are going to the classroom."

Affidavit Unsealed In Pa. Cyber School Investigation (9/19/13)
More Reports on Nick Trombetta
More Reports by Andy Sheehan

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