State Auditor Revisits 2019 Report on Independent Schools

State Auditor Doug Hoffer joined the House Education Committee on Tuesday to discuss his report from 2019. One of the main things he flagged was that independent schools are not required to undergo financial audits. Approval from the State Board of Education does require the school to have “financial capacity” to carry out their obligations to students.

There are also personnel differences and there are employment condition requirements for public schools that independents are not subject to. Public school teachers also have higher education requirements and need endorsements. Something like the endorsement system exists for independent schools but not quite as robust (some of this is addressed through accreditation however).

Multiple pathways are required in public schools but there are fewer specific ones required in independent schools. The minimum courses of study also vary between the two. Class sizes are also required for public schools (even though classes sizes are often smaller in independent schools).

Non-discrimination rules are similar, however the language for independent schools does not specify that they enforce the anti-discrimination policies, just adopt and maintain them.

Representative Austin focused on school safety and mandatory reporting. She was concerned about some “recent reporting” that some abuse had happened at an independent school. Hoffer assured her that teachers are mandatory reporters regardless of where they are employed.

He also mentioned a second report that found that while the public school enrollment was dropping over the past two decades (around 10%), but at the same time independent schools enrollment was growing (about 8%). Chairman Conlon opined that a number of small public high schools have closed over the last decade and many of those students may have gained access to choice as a result.

Representative Stone asked about requirements for those teaching in independent schools. She wanted to know if special education is included in the requirements for teachers. She asked if Hoffer would look into special education over the next couple of years. There were some other questions in this arena as well, but it is likely changing or has already changed with the updates to the 2200 rule series.

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