June Brown, a longtime School District administrator who jumped on the charter bandwagon early by founding three small charters and then co-founding a cyber school, has been charged in a massive fraud case by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The federal investigation was partly the result of dogged reporting over several years by the Inquirer's Martha Woodall on charter mismanagement and profiteering.
Brown, hailed at one time for stellar test scores, especially at Laboratory Charter, drew simultaneous salaries as the nominal head of two schools at a time. The indictment charges her with defrauding the three charter schools of $6.5 million and using her knowledge of Philadelphia's school system to illegally profit.
The state had at one time moved to close Agora, but stopped in the face of suits and countersuits. Brown was forced out, but received a $3 milion settlement from the state and from K12, the for-profit company that operated the school.
The multiple-count, 66-page indictment comes as Philadelphia education, philanthropic and civic leaders move to increase the number of students who attend charter schools.
Two of the three charter schools that Brown founded, Planet Abacus and Laboratory Charter, are up for five-year renewals before the School Reform Commission. The vote on the renewals has been repeatedly delayed.
Update: The School District issued a statement saying that it is "very concerned" about the allegations and that "pending renewal decisions on any charter school alleged by the indictment to be associated with Ms. Brown will be placed on hold." It also said it would conduct its own internal investigation with help from outside counsel from the law firm of Pepper, Hamilton.