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9:36 AM Sat, Sept. 22nd

Horne vows to fight charter school ruling

PHOENIX – The U.S. Department of Education has overruled the Arizona Department of Education concerning charter school financing and Arizona schools chief Tom Horne plans to fight back.

Horne said the state Department of Education will appeal the ruling, which requires that $1,129,006 in federal money provided to charter schools run by for-profit entities go back to the federal government.

"The federal argument that charter schools operated by for-profit entities are not public schools is indefensible," he said. "Under Arizona law, there is absolutely no distinction made between nonprofit and for-profit charter schools; both are public schools and therefore eligible for public funding."

JoLynn Richter, director of Arizona Montessori Charter School, 7555 E. Long Look Drive, a nonprofit charter in Prescott Valley, does not agree with Horne.

"Although it is a frightening stance for the Feds to take, I don't believe you should be in education for profit," Richter said of her agreement that for-profit charters should not receive federal money. "On the other hand, nonprofit charters live up to the same standards as public schools and therefore should be entitled to the same funding."

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General contends that for-profit Arizona charter school operators were not entitled to receive a total amounting to $1,129,006.

That $1.1 million went for low-income Title I as well as special education programs between October 2000 and September 2001. The report calls for the state to refund the money.

Under Arizona law, both for-profit and nonprofit charter schools are public schools, and therefore eligible for Title I and special education programs.

"The federal government has decided to ignore Arizona law in this matter," Horne said. "I strongly disagree with the opinion of the inspector general's office and intend to exhaust every avenue of appeal available to me as state schools superintendent."