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South Carolina Charter School Drama

Money, alleged racism … and a federal lawsuit.

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A government-funded charter school purporting to serve at-risk, minority children in the South Carolina Lowcountry has accused a statewide agency of “illegally intercepting” its state and federal funding – and filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the agency from “taking any further action” against the school.

Last Friday, the Charleston Advancement Academy (CAA) filed a lawsuit against the S.C. Public Charter School District (SCPCSD) – which oversees the education of approximately 18,000 students in nearly forty schools across the Palmetto State.

The suit (.pdf) – which also named SCPCSD board chairman John S. Payne as a defendant – was filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C. last Friday (April 7, 2023).

Founded in 2017, CAA bills itself as a school serving students who have experienced “difficulty succeeding in traditional schools.” It claims to offer these “vulnerable young people” a second chance at “graduating from high school” and succeeding “in the job market or post-secondary education.”

The SCPCSD – which oversees CAA – cites its mission as “reimagining public education in South Carolina.”



“We authorize, champion and support the creation and advancement of innovative K-12 public charter schools in South Carolina,” the agency notes on its website. SCPCSD is led by an eight-member board of political appointees – six of whom are chosen by the governor and two chosen by leaders of the S.C. General Assembly.

According to CAA, the SCPCSD has “knowingly, willfully and intentionally discriminated against CAA and our high-poverty, predominately minority students.”

“They’ve bullied us for years, and now they’ve violated state law in trying to revoke our charter,” the school alleged on its website.

Specifically, CAA accused the statewide district of engaging in an effort to “shut the school down” based on an alleged racial bias – claiming district leaders are allegedly “treating CAA and other sponsored schools that serve minority students differently from sponsored schools that serve predominantly white students.”

The lawsuit further accused the district of having a “curious and unnaturally close relationship” with Acceleration Academies, a Chicago-based management firm which brands itself as a “national leader in re-engaging young adults not experiencing success in a traditional high school setting.”

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief on the basis that "closing CAA and removing the support it provides its students would be devastating to the community, and because the public has a vested interest in preventing discrimination in all its forms, especially discrimination that is executed by the state and its political subdivisions.”

Is CAA operating on the level, though?

In January, district leaders voted to "revoke the CAA charger and terminate the CAA contract” effective June 30, 2023 based on a host of alleged violations - including the school’s alleged failure to "meet its self-identified 'critical goals' based on a minimum graduation rate of 65 percent and at least 40 percent of students earning at least six credits per academic year.”

What is CAA’s most recent graduation rate? According to data supplied by the district, it stood at an anemic 8.8 percent in 2022.

"(CAA) has failed to meet academic goals year after year,” district officials noted in their revocation letter (.pdf).

(Click to View)

Student holds a Charleston Advancement Academy diploma (Facebook)

In addition to academic concerns, there are issues related to the school’s funding.

According to an April 3, 2023 letter to CAA’s attorneys from SCPCSD lawyer Erik T. Norton, the school had approximately $4 million in cash on hand - "which is more than the school’s budget for the current year.”

"CAA therefore does not require any additional state funding to operate between now and June 30, 2023,” Norton wrote in his letter (.pdf).

Four million dollars is a lot of cash to have laying around ... although such resource hoarding is par for the course in the Palmetto State’s results-challenged government-run school system.

Another common problem in that system? Lax financial controls ...

Regarding CAA’s finances, Norton noted in his letter that "the district has concerns regarding the internal controls in place by CAA for oversight of taxpayer funds” - including allegations that board chairwoman Nadine Deif was exercising "unilateral control” over this money.

"CAA documentation indicates that the board chair has access to school bank accounts from her mobile phone and CAA bank statements are directed to a post office box controlled by the board chair,” Norton wrote. "This information corroborates prior information that the board chair has the capacity to, and at times does, exercise unilateral control over CAA finances. Several transactions in CAA financial records also require further explanation and context that are not available to the district at this time.”

SCPCSD officials did not immediately respond to the CAA lawsuit, although they promised to provide us with a copy of their formal reply as soon as it was filed with the court. They also pointed us to a letter (.pdf) sent this week to CAA officials from district superintendent Chris Neeley recapping many of the alleged violations which led to the charter revocation.

In addition to the aforementioned academic and financial issues, Neeley cited alleged Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) violations, Title IX violations and excessive truancy at the school among his "other areas of concern.”



(Via: Text)



Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.



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Facts April 13, 2023 at 7:45 pm

These charter schools, way more often than not, fail miserably.

Why do you think schools were federalized to begin with?

Brad Ledbetter Top fan April 14, 2023 at 8:35 am

8.8% graduation rate? They must be so proud..LMAO


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