Utah Education Board forms panel to examine charter schools

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Board of Education will form a new task force to examine charter school finances.

The board voted Thursday to create the panel to look into charter school spending and how the schools can restructure their finances.

“We need to clean it up. We have some problems,” said Mark Huntsman, the board’s chairman.

The decision comes amid ongoing financial strife with the closure of the American International School of Utah in Murray. The charter school is closing with more than $400,000 owed in state and federal funding and other debt.

State officials have demanded repayment after finding funds were improperly spent. The school’s board voted in May to shut down after concerns grew about its financial viability.

The state board’s audit committee recommended creating the task force.

“There have been some questions come up over a school closing with some real financial issues,” said Janet Cannon, vice chairwoman of the committee. “This would help alleviate anything like that happening again.”

Board members have questioned the oversight of the state Charter School Board and why officials didn’t intervene in the school sooner. The two boards have been at odds at times over how to regulate charter schools.

Jennifer Lambert, executive director of the charter board, said she doesn’t yet know how the task force will affect her organization.

“I’m still kind of digesting all of this,” Lambert told The Salt Lake Tribune . “But we would be happy to participate in it.”

The state auditor’s office has also asked for all charter schools to move to the same accounting standards that public schools use.

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