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Protestors from Action United, supported by the Service Employees International Union, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network rallied outside Gov. Tom Corbett’s Pittsburgh office this morning demanding a moratorium on charter school approvals and funding.

A companion rally was held in Philadelphia.

The call comes in the wake of a report compiled by Action United, Integrity in Education, and the Center for Popular Democracy that claims Pennsylvania charter schools have lost $30 million to fraud in the last 17 years.

“Pennsylvania children and families have been robbed by charter school operators to the tune of $30 million,” said Action United board member Ted Stones.

He urged Corbett to quit “expanding a broken system without the oversight and integrity our children deserve.”

The group then marched to the Urban Pathways charter school, which was selected because last November state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale asked the FBI to investigate allegations that the school misused thousands in funds on top-flight catering for board meetings, expensive restaurants, and board retreats to exclusive resorts.

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Schools issued a statement supporting investigations of charter school fraud, but said Action United’s report leaps to “sweeping conclusions about the entire charter school sector based on only 11 incidents over the course of almost 20 years.”

It ignores, the statement read, actual fraud and fiscal mismanagement in (public school) districts over the same time period “which dwarf the charter school allegations in terms of misuse of taxpayer funds.”

The report’s recommendations for achieving more transparency and accountability should be applied to all schools, the coalition said, otherwise it “would just be an example of pursuing a political agenda.”

(Photo by J.L. Martello)

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