albanycapital120New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that auditors from his office will be examining the finances of three charter schools as part of his ongoing initiative to bring transparency and accountability to taxpayer-financed institutions.

“A change in state Education Law gives my office the authority to audit charter schools,” DiNapoli said. “These schools are supported by taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent.”

DiNapoli’s auditors will begin their fieldwork in the next few weeks at the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School in New York City, the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys in Albany and the South Buffalo Charter School in Buffalo. The audits will examine the financial internal controls of the charter schools.

In 2010, DiNapoli’s office completed a five-year initiative to audit the financial internal controls of each of the state’s 733 public school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services.

Last year, the State Legislature amended the Charter Schools Act to give the State Comptroller the authority to audit charter schools’ finances at his discretion. The amendment was part of a new law that authorized the creation of 260 new charter schools. The 171 charter schools currently operating in New York State served more than 57,000 students and received $572 million in taxpayer funding for state fiscal year 2010-11. The Legislature specifically stated the intent of the law is to “ensure greater accountability and transparency” through the comptroller’s audits.

Under the Charter Schools Act, the school district of residence of each student enrolled in a charter school pays "basic tuition" (based on a statutory formula) directly to the charter school.  The district also pays any federal or state aid attributable to a student with a disability attending the charter school.  If the school district fails to make the required payments, the State Comptroller is required to withhold the money from state aid meant for the school district and give the funds directly to the charter school.