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When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances.

In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a “sweeps” contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is “swept” into a charter-management company.

The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits.