Shuttered Missouri charter school keeps leftover cash

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating why a St. Louis charter school kept hold of nearly a half-million dollars in its coffers after it closed — at least the second such facility in the state to hang onto leftover cash — and education officials are calling for greater oversight of the charter school system.

A federal investigation into Paideia Academy has begun, the state auditor’s office is asking questions and a bill has been introduced in the House that would make the sponsor of a charter school responsible for determining what happens with leftover funds, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“We want to have really clear guidelines around charter school closure,” said Cheri Shannon, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association. “I have been really troubled by that with Paideia.“

The state closed Paideia last summer after the Missouri University of Science and Technology ended its sponsorship because the school’s 525 students were floundering academically. In all but a few grades, fewer than 10 percent of students were meeting state grade-level requirements.

Taxpayer funding is supposed to end without the charter designation, which frees schools from many of the rules and regulation imposed on traditional public schools. But Paideia continued to receive money to reimburse it for expenses it had already incurred.

On June 15, the day Paideia lost its charter, the state education department sent it $25,210 in Title I money to reimburse it for serving students from impoverished families. State finance records show it had more than $450,000 in its bank account on June 30, and it received another $36,754 in federal reimbursement money in September.

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