Coming right off the heels of the contracting controversy regarding Option Public Charter School, the D.C. Public Charter School Board at its meeting Wednesday night will introduce a new policy for public comment regarding financial agreements charters reach with other entities.
The PCSB is strengthening all of the areas that could have tipped the organization off to problems at Options. Among other details, the body is setting strict time specifications for the submission of all contacts $25,000 and above, with higher standards for those over $100,000. It mandates when schools must deliver to the PCSB school board of directors' meeting minutes and conflict of interest policies. In addition, the new rules call for informing the PCSB of the top three earning employees per fiscal year of each charter school, and greater transparency regarding contracts that are likely to trigger a conflict of interest, for example those that are awarded to family members of schools' leadership or past employees.
The supporting documentation states that the "PCSB staff also will review other information, including charter school’s Board minutes and school annual audits, to identify contracts which were awarded by a school but not submitted to PCSB as required by the SRA" [School Reform Act].
The proposal explains that the PCSB will issue a notice of concern if the new reporting requirements are not met and then a charter warning "if a notice of concern under this policy is issued to that charter school in two consecutive years or more than one notice of concern is issued in one year." I would add specific penalties for failure to disclose potential financial conflict of interest activities.
Now the question will be whether the PCSB has the staff and procedures in place to be able to effectively monitor its portfolio of schools.