Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Los Angeles County Green Dot Charter School Founder Charges Nonprofit for Undocumented Expenses

Local charter school founder Steve Barr, a national figure in school reform, has repaid his organization more than $50,000 after an internal review determined that expenses he had charged were undocumented or unjustified.

The repayment was disclosed in a tax return filed this year by Green Dot Public Schools, which Barr launched in 1999.

Barr stepped aside this fall as board chairman of Green Dot but remains on the board and on staff. The expense problem had nothing to do with Barr's change of role, said Shane Martin, who replaced Barr as chairman.

Martin said Tuesday that the expenses came to light in an internal review as the rapidly growing nonprofit transitioned from Barr's ad hoc creation to a nonprofit run according to proper accounting standards.

The disallowed costs related to missing receipts and "isolated instances of expenses that were more extravagant than they needed to be for a nonprofit," such as lodging at higher-grade hotels, said Martin, who also heads the school of education at Loyola Marymount University.

 "We caught this internally and took decisive action," he said. "Everyone cooperated fully."

Barr's education work has attracted significant notice because of Green Dot's July 2008 takeover of long-struggling Locke High in South Los Angeles. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has cited Green Dot's approach as one model for the essential turnaround of the nation's high school "dropout factories."

Green Dot's internal review has local implications because the Los Angeles Unified School District is poised to turn over as many as 30 campuses to outside bidders, including Green Dot and other charter organizations. Charters are publicly funded, independently managed schools that are free from some regulations that govern traditional schools.
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